Roche partners with Temedica to launch 'digital companion' app for multiple sclerosis

After spending more than a century honing its pharmacological approach to managing disease, Roche is branching out. The Big Pharma has partnered with digital health software developer Temedica to help multiple sclerosis patients manage their condition using a smartphone app.

The Brisa app will collect daily health data like activity, sleep and dietary habits and give users a place to track their day-to-day MS symptoms. After analyzing that information, the “digital companion” will be able to pinpoint potential areas of improvement and suggest lifestyle changes that might help users better manage the condition in tandem with their existing treatment plans.

The app will then guide patients through those changes, providing individualized therapy support and recommendations and automatically sharing their progress with their care teams.

The Brisa platform combines Roche’s medical expertise with Temedica’s experience building digital health tools. The Munich-based company’s offerings also include the Pelvina app to help women reduce urinary incontinence and strengthen the pelvic floor; Mineo, designed to manage back pain with physician-created therapy plans; and Waya, an app for obesity and Type 2 diabetes management.

Temedica is also developing yet another digital app with an unnamed pharmaceutical partner that will focus on managing rheumatic diseases.

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To start, Brisa will only be available in Germany, where it will be offered free of charge to the nation’s approximately 240,000 MS patients.

A beta version of the app is already available for download for both iOS and Android, while the release of the full version is slated for the end of this year, after Brisa and its therapeutic components have received the necessary regulatory clearances to be used as a medical device.

“Today, digital technologies enable us to accelerate medical progress and together establish healthcare that focuses even more on the individual needs of patients," said Carola Bruns, Roche’s medical lead of neuroscience. “We are convinced that together—and in cooperation with patients, treatment providers and scientists—we will make a valuable contribution to further deepen our understanding of MS and to further improve the quality of life of MS patients.”

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The Temedica partnership marks take two on digital health management apps for Roche. Back in 2015, its French pharma division linked up with local digital therapeutic maker Voluntis to build an algorithm-driven app called Zemy to help track and manage symptoms of breast cancer.

Though the partners proceeded in 2018 to expand Zemy’s reach to include other solid tumors, they had formally severed ties by the following year, before clinical trials were complete. Voluntis went on to receive marketing authorization from the FDA in 2019 for a similar app, named Oleena, that gives cancer patients real-time recommendations to improve their symptoms.

In the meantime, Roche has found other ways to go digital. In 2017, for example, it snapped up mySugr, a platform that wirelessly connects to glucose monitors and other diabetes devices, providing personalized advice and health recommendations based on the data collected by those devices. And earlier this year, Roche Italia tapped startup PatchAI to launch an artificial-intelligence-powered virtual assistant for cancer patients.