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New Wearable Helps Smokers Kick the Habit

Posted on October 5th, 2016 by in Pharma R&D


The San Francisco-based biotech startup Chrono Therapeutics, a self-described “pioneer in digital drug therapy,” has just announced that it has successfully raised $47.6 million in Series B financing from a global array of investors. The funds will be used in the clinical development of its personalized drug delivery platform designed to help people quit smoking.

“The aspiration at Chrono is to try to combine the modestly successful pharmacological and behavioral approaches into an integrated product that’s much more effective,” explains Luke Timmerman of Forbes. He also points out that this development is somewhat surprising, since in the past two decades the biotech industry hasn’t come up with many innovative solutions to smoking, one of the world’s most persistent public health problems.

According to the American Lung Association, more than 480,000 people in the U.S. die from tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure. Lung cancer in particular, the American Cancer Society notes, is responsible for 1 out of 4 cancer deaths (more than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined). But because the dangers of smoking are so well-known and therefore preventable, its tragic results tend not to get as much sympathy or attention (and therefore, presumably, funding).

But if the high death toll were not reason enough to put money into drugs that help people stop smoking (and of course it should be), the fact is that the smoking cessation market is huge – so Chrono’s product could stand to make a lot of money for its investors. In a recent report, Visiongain predicted that the worldwide smoking cessation drugs market will reach $2.5 billion in 2017. And if there is a superior new product available, there’s no reason to think that number couldn’t grow.

There are already some smoking cessation drugs that have been developed and are now on the market, pills such as Pfizer’s Chantix, which is designed to curb smokers’ cravings. But Chrono’s innovative product offers the convenience of being a wearable, which the company describes as “lightweight, comfortable, and discreet.” Wearables have actually been one of the most popular smoking cessation “devices” for decades – if you consider that the transdermal nicotine patch is one of the original (albeit non-digital) wearables. Initially developed by GlaxoSmithKline back in 1991, NicoDerm CQ was the first incarnation of ‘the patch,’ which is still widely used (in all its various incarnations since then) by tobacco users who are trying to quit or cut down their smoking.

But Chrono’s innovative wearable, currently in Phase II trials, would have the advantage of providing a personalized approach that takes an individual’s stressors and cues to smoke into account. As the company explains it: “Our flagship product delivers a complete 10-week smoking cessation program. With nicotine replacement therapy timed to smokers’ peak cravings and coordinated digital support tools, we’re providing an integrated collection of clinically validated, personalized interventions to help smokers quit.”

The wearable device, which is an adhesive-lined cartridge, uses Bluetooth to communicate with a mobile application that gathers and manages the patient’s data. “While it is designed to address cravings before they hit, the device also has a ‘Crave’ button that a patient may press, triggering the smartphone app to launch craving-management coaching,” notes Fierce Pharma’s Amirah Al Idrus.  “Patients may also record feelings and events that accompany the craving, such as stress.” The app identifies trends in the patient’s cravings data and offers interactive lessons that help users develop strategies for managing their nicotine cravings.

Smoking has often been regarded as one of the hardest addictions to overcome – and the consequences for failing to overcome it can be deadly. But Chrono’s wearable, a kind of nicotine patch for the digital age, could be a breakthrough in helping people to break the habit. And if the platform is successful, Chrono has other big ideas for it in the future. They believe that this method of giving patients timed delivery of medication via a wearable could be used for Parkinson’s disease, pain management, and even one of our most recent and alarming public health problems in desperate need of a solution, opioid addiction.

For more information visit ScienceDirect.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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