- Headspace, a favourite meditation app of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, has launched a new subsidiary charged with developing a suite of prescription-level apps for a range of health conditions.
- Called Headspace Health, the subsidiary is starting clinical trials on its first product this summer.
- Headspace Health hopes to get Food and Drug Administration approval for the new digital health tool within two years.
The $US250 million mindfulness app company Headspace has big plans to turn meditation into medicine.
A favourite self-improvement tool in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, the app already has 30 million users. On Wednesday by way of a new subsidiary called Headspace Health, the company will soon be rolling out a handful of prescription-grade meditation tools.
Headspace is starting clinical trials this summer and aims to get Food and Drug Administration approval for its first digital health product by 2020, Megan Jones Bell, the company’s chief science officer, told Business Insider.
Jones Bell did not specify what health condition the product would be for, but she said she believed it would “likely surprise a lot of people.”
Several studies on meditation have hinted that several key health benefits may emerge from the practice. Those range from lower blood pressure to better focus and even enhanced creativity and emotional control.
Silicon Valley certainly appears convinced. Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey goes on regular Buddhist meditation retreats, numerous high-end spas now include features like “meditation pods.” And every year a flock of Wall Streeters follow the lead of Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio and pay nearly $US1,000 to learn how to practice Transcendental Meditation.
Most of those people use meditation for general self-help benefits, however, and Headspace Health is taking a different tack. In order to create a product designed to treat a specific health condition, they will have to work closely with the FDA. The agency is currently in the process of implementing its “Digital Health” initiative, which is geared at streamlining how the FDA reviews software products, including mobile health apps.
While there are several existing well-designed studies on the benefits of meditation in healthy people, far fewer studies exist that look specifically at using meditation to help treat a specific disease or condition.
Jones Bell said Headspace Health’s team of seven people is already working with a number of academic and federal institutions, including Britain’s National Health Service and the University of California, to publish studies with exactly that aim. So far, they are pursuing 12 mental and physical conditions that the app could help treat, she said, with one study that she’s particularly excited about.
“It’s going to be one of the most rigorous studies of a meditation app to date,” Jones Bell said.
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