Mayo Ventures Ups Investment In Wearable Anti-Smoking Device Maker
A close relationship between the Mayo Clinic’s nicotine dependence researchers and a California company developing a wearable nicotine drug delivery device got closer this month with a follow-on investment from Mayo Clinic Ventures.
Chrono Therapeutics of Hayward, California announced earlier in September that MCV was among the existing investors to participate in its biggest venture financing so far – a $47.6 million Series B round led by Kaiser Permanente, the Oakland-based health care provider.
The Mayo venture arm was also among the takers in Chrono’s $32 million Series A funding event in 2014.
Other two-time investors include 5AM Ventures, Canaan Partners, Fountain Healthcare Partners and GE Ventures, while the new investor list included Kaiser, Cota Capital, Japanese chemical company Asahi Kasei, Emergent Medical Partners, Endeavour Vision, Hikma Ventures, Mission Bay Capital and Xeraya Capital Labuan Ltd.
The VCs are excited by Chrono’s smoking cessation solution, which the company says is the first product to be commercialized from its proprietary tech platform combining “optimized” drug delivery via transdermal patches, embedded sensor technology to monitor compliance and “digital behavioral support.”
The method takes advantage of research showing that smokers have clear, consistent and predictable daily peak nicotine craving patterns, and leverages that predictability to gradually wean them off cigarettes.
Under the Chrono prototype, a small wireless device attached to the nicotine patches is worn on the body. The device is designed to automatically vary nicotine levels throughout the day to match the user’s patterns. It employs Bluetooth technology to wirelessly communicate with a “digital support program” on the patient’s smartphone, which dispenses “real-time guidance” to help smokers cope with cravings. It’s also a way of inducing compliance with the quit process.
The product is currently in Phase II clinical trials. In March, the company announced that Phase I clinical data showed a statistically significant reduction in nicotine cravings in a randomized, double-blinded study of 24 adult male smokers who smoked 11 or more cigarettes per day, indicating a high level of nicotine dependence. Compared to a control group, those using the system reported a “statistically significant and clinically meaningful” reduction in cravings.
Chrono Therapeutics has strong ties to Mayo’s Nicotine Dependence Center, regarded as one of the world’s top research programs on smoking addiction. The main link is center founder Dr. Richard Hurt, who serves on the company’s scientific advisory board.
Hurt is well-known for many reasons, but mostly for his efforts in the 1980s to establish smoking cessation as a worthy medical goal and to set up the research center, overcoming much professional skepticism and outright opposition from the tobacco industry.
In the next decade he emerged as one of the country’s leading advocates of the anti-smoking cause, playing perhaps the key role in state of Minnesota’s landmark lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers—his testimony helped exposed the industry’s complicity in marketing a product they knew to be harmful.
Since its founding in 1988, the Nicotine Dependence Center has treated more than 50,000 patients for tobacco dependence as well as performing research and creating education programs.
Hurt retired from Mayo in 2014, but Nicotine Center’s current leaders are also involved with Chrono Therapeutics. Current program director, Michael Burke and associate director Dr. J. Taylor Hays are both collaborating with the company. Last year, Chrono said the pair are “among several of the world's leaders in nicotine dependence treatment” working with it on the wearable prototype.
“Integrating a smart digital coach that leverages the best in behavioral science with a new and adjustable method to deliver nicotine replacement has the potential to save many thousands of lives by providing new hope and support to people struggling to become tobacco free,” Burke said then in an issued statement. “We are very excited to collaborate with Chrono on this innovation.”