Akili expands its prescription video game portfolio with $37M offer for Tali's attention-improving tech

With its recent $160 million deluge of funding seemingly burning a hole in its pocket, Akili Interactive has set its sights on building out its slate of video game-based treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

To that end, the Boston-based startup said in a statement that it has set aside about $37.5 million in an agreement to license Tali Digital’s software, which is designed to both screen for inattention in children and improve their attention.

Akili and Tali will combine their clinical expertise to launch trials of Tali’s software. Akili will offer up the expertise it gained from bringing its own prescription video game treatment through the clinical development and FDA clearance process to snag a regulatory OK.

If they’re successful in scoring FDA clearance for Tali’s Detect and Train programs, under the terms of the deal, Akili will take the reins on launching and commercializing the software in the U.S.

The allotted $37.5 million will be doled out to Tali over time as its technology achieves certain milestones. That lump sum also includes potential royalty payments to the Australian company, paid out based on revenues earned by Akili as it begins the U.S. rollout of Tali’s games.

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Tali’s technology, comprising the Detect and Train applications, is designed to be used by children aged three to eight for a five-week period. Tali Detect features seven game-based tests that profile each user’s cognitive attention capabilities and screen for inattention. From there, Tali Train offers hundreds of levels of game-based exercises to improve those cognitive capabilities, with each level automatically adapting to each child’s abilities and progress.

Both programs have been proven effective in multiple studies. Tali Detect, for example, was shown to assess selective and sustained attention levels with comparable results to traditional ADHD assessments. Yet, its ability to measure cognitive flexibility, also known as executive attention, fell somewhat short of standard testing.

Five weeks of Tali Train gameplay, meanwhile, was proven in a handful of studies to improve selective attention and numeracy skills and reduce inattention and hyperactivity in the classroom. Additionally, \these results were largely sustained three months after the program was completed.

RELATED: FDA clears its first prescription video game treatment for ADHD

Tali’s offerings slot nicely into Akili’s existing portfolio, which includes EndeavorRx. The digital therapeutic—which became in June 2020 the first prescription video game cleared by the FDA to treat ADHD and which was built around a licensed technology from the University of California, San Francisco—offers a tablet-based program to improve focus, cognitive function and multitasking in children aged eight to 12, just above Tali’s prescribed age range.

Five clinical studies of more than 600 children showed that EndeavorRx improved cognitive abilities in one month. After two months, about two-thirds of parents reported meaningful improvements in their children’s attention, academic performance and more.

The FDA clearance was followed, less than a year later, by the $160 million fundraise, which Akili said it would use to support the commercial rollout of EndeavorRx and the development of new prescription video games to treat other acute and chronic cognitive disorders.

“Focused on early childhood intervention targeting attention, Tali’s impressive technology is an ideal addition to Akili’s portfolio,” said Akili CEO Eddie Martucci. "We are committed to changing the way people think about medicine, and strategic agreements like this will allow us to expand our vision to treat cognitive impairments in entirely new ways and usher in the next generation of digital therapeutics."

Editor's note: This article was updated to clarify that Tali's software is designed to assess and treat inattention, rather than ADHD.