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Keio University spinout scores multi-million dollar investment for anti-smoking health app

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: February 15th, 2017

A spinout from Keio University in Japan is launching a mobile app to help cigarette smokers kick the habit. Just this month, CureApp received ¥380 million ($3.4 million) from investors including Keio’s Innovation Initiative, which is a partnership between the university and Japanese financial holding company Nomura Holdings. The start-up plans to use the funds to develop products and expand in the U.S.

Every year in Japan, roughly half a million smokers seek clinical treatment for quitting tobacco, but these treatments are generally brief and infrequent. CureApp presents to its users an animated nurse who monitors their progress throughout the day and offers friendly advice on how to fight cravings.

“Giving up smoking can be a lonely battle,” says CureApp CEO Kohta Satake. “Many people want to stop, regardless of the cost, but their efforts are often in vain.”

The start-up is currently awaiting government approval to employ the anti-smoking app under Japan’s health insurance program. If it is approved, physicians will be able to prescribe the software, which gives users real-time feedback on their mobile devices to resist the itch to smoke.

According to Satake, Japanese authorities have allowed mobile apps to be recognized as medical devices under law, yet none have achieved that designation so far. Satake expects CureApp will be approved by 2019 and will go public in 2020.

“The company is very popular among investors, and there was stiff competition to provide funding,” says Kotaro Yamagishi, CEO of Keio Innovation Initiative. “We expect the app to be authorized for use on the national insurance program and it will be a profitable business.”

Source: The Japan Times

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