Leaps by Bayer Invests in Woebot Health
March 15, 2022
An estimated 280 million people suffer from depression globally, making it one of the most common mental disorders and the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Its prevalence and the vast unmet need for care led Leaps by Bayer, the impact investment arm of Bayer AG, to make its first investment in mental health with Woebot Health. Dr. Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer, explains why.
You’ve made a $9.5 million strategic investment in Woebot Health, your first in mental health. What prompted it?
Our investment strategy centers around solving 10 of the greatest challenges we see facing humanity today. We call those challenges Leaps, and we revisit and reevaluate them every other year or so. We recognized the increased prevalence of and unmet need in mental health, with depression and anxiety highest on the list. As such we created Leap Five – Protect the Brain and Mind – to address both central nervous system disorders and mental health issues.
Why Woebot Health?
First, it’s a data-driven company that combines psychology and technology. Woebot Health has already produced a lot of rigorous clinical evidence supporting its approach, including numerous randomized control trials and observational studies. These studies are at the core of the company’s platform and products, which are based on sound and validated behavioral therapies: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT).
What else did you consider?
We also looked at the model they’re working to achieve. With mental health, you never know at what time of day or night someone may need support. Woebot Health is providing an AI-powered, chat-based tool that can be a 24/7 digital therapist. But Woebot is so much more than an app; it listens, learns and delivers personalized advice and solutions in an approachable, conversational manner. The innovation – and empathy – in that approach certainly differentiates it from all the apps out there. But also, they’re not trying to bypass the healthcare system or replace healthcare providers. They’re actually making it easier for providers to deliver care either through prescription digital therapeutics or non-prescription therapeutics. The end result is they’re not just trying to take something directly to consumers. Rather, they’re showing data to healthcare systems and working with them to show how this approach can be value saving or value driving.
Can you talk a bit more about the value you see Woebot Health providing to healthcare systems?
When you look at value-based healthcare, you look at emergency visits, the number of people who aren’t able to see a therapist, and what that ends up costing. Woebot Health can address not only the wide discrepancy between the number of providers and patients that need help, but also hopefully reduce emergency room visits that can result from inadequate care. This is a company that wants to integrate with the healthcare system to make lives easier not just for the patients, but also the providers, and ultimately provide savings while delivering better, more effective care.
What do you hope comes out of this investment?
I’d like people to have 24/7 access to digital behavioral health solutions to help with the unmet need. And to see Woebot Health develop both prescription and non-prescription therapeutics and bring these helpful mental health solutions to people around the world.
Margot Carlson Delogne
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