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Limbix is a digital therapeutics solution for adolescent mental health
Steven Loeb and Bambi Francisco Roizen speak with Ben Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Limbix, a digital therapeutics solution for adolescent mental health. It's solution, called SparkRx, is a self-guided program that teaches teens and young adults skills like mood tracking, behavioral activation, problem solving, and mindfulness.
The company has raised $16 million funding from investors that include Sequoia Capital, Storm Ventures, NextGen Venture Partners, GSR Ventures, BIXINK Therapeutics, MassChallenge, Plug and Play Tech Center, and SV Angel.
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- Lewis decided to start Limbix when he saw a growing healthcare crisis in how certain mental health disorders were being treated. There was a shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, and there was no solution on the horizon. The idea was to build software designed increase access to mental health care.
- Limbix is a prescription digital therapeutic, which are mobile apps prescribed by a doctor or licensed healthcare provider, usually to treat or diagnose a specific disease. These products go through clinical trials, and they're submitted through the FDA.
- Anti-depressants for those under the age of 24 are not as effective as they are in adults, and they also have an increased side effect profile, potentially increasing the risk of suicide in patients, so pediatricians don't prescribe them.
- The product itself does not have a therapist or coach doing teletherapy. Instead, Limbix uses a traditional mobile interface; the company tested a chatbot but found that it didn't test as well for a variety of reasons, including that the SparkRx protocol is based on behavioral activation, so it's about getting out in the real world doing activities. To schedule and track those activities, a chatbot interface was more cumbersome for teens, who are tech savvy.
- The company is in the process of seeking FDA clearance for SparkRx. Until then, it is in market under the emergency use authorization due to COVID. For now, the product is completely free as part of its COVID response: it will never charge doctors, and there's no charge to patients, as it is not seeking reimbursement.
- The core product is designed to be used by those aged 13 to 22 because the company wanted to keep it more targeted; if you keep expanding the age range, the product becomes watered down. User research and trials found that 13 was the youngest age that would still be able to use the app. In addition, there's more legal regulations on data collection and how the product is built for apps used by those under 13.
- COVID has had a large impact on teen mental health. That has increased the demand for treatment options, and for Limbix it accelerated the company's plans, but it hasn't resulted in an increase in the number of available adolescent psychologists. While other companies can break down barriers, they don't create new psychologists, and the increase in demand has exacerbated the problem of long waitlists, which have only increased. And the problem is even worse for those who rely on insurance.
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