Irish-founded Woebot secures $9.5m from pharma giant Bayer

San Francisco-headquartered firm has secured more than $123.5m in funding to date

 Dr Alison D’Arcy founded Woebot in 2017

Dr Alison D’Arcy founded Woebot in 2017

 

Irish-founded start-up Woebot, a company that has developed a therapeutic chatbot, has secured $9.5 million (€8.65 million) from the investment arm of pharma giant Bayer.

The stake in Woebot marks Leaps by Bayer’s first investment in the mental health space, and brings to $123.5 million the total raised by Woebot since it was established in 2017.

The San Francisco-headquartered company closed a $90 million investment led by Jazz Venture Partners and Temasek less than a year ago.

Founded in 2017 by University College Dublin graduate Dr Alison Darcy, Woebot has developed what it calls a “relational agent”. This is an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot capable of creating a therapeutic bond with users.

Unlike most chatbots that are functional in nature, however, Woebot is capable of forming a strong, deep relationship with users and delivering human-like therapeutic responses to those experiencing mental health difficulties.

Chatbot

The idea for the cognitive behavioural therapy-trained chatbot came out of research conducted by Dr Darcy, a Stanford-trained clinical research psychologist. She later decided to take what she had discovered out of an academic setting and make it as widely accessible as possible.

“With its deep focus on clinical evidence and unique AI-based platform and products, Woebot Health is forging a new frontier in behavioural health at a critical time in our world. We’re excited to support endeavours that will make tech-supported continuous care a reality for all,” said head of Leaps by Bayer Dr Jürgen Eckhardt.

Woebot, which has an operation in Dublin, announced plans to double headcount to more than 100 people last year with about half of those new roles to be here. Dr D’Arcy serves as the company’s president.

Last year, the company’s WB001 solution, the first digital therapeutic designed to reduce the burden of postpartum depression, received US Food and Drug Administration breakthrough device designation, which provides a pathway to getting solutions to market faster.

Exposure

Woebot has gained considerable media exposure for its flagship solution with articles in publications including The Irish Times, the New York Times, CNBC, Newsweek and Forbes.

“We’re honoured to join forces with a company that is committed to innovative, evidence-based approaches to conquering such significant challenges,” said Michael Evers, chief executive of Woebot Health.

“Great mental-health outcomes depend on supportive relationships. Together with our employer, health system and plan partners, we can create a world where empathic and meaningfully engaging mental-health interventions reach everyone in their moment of need,” he added.