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November 2010

CURE/Yale BioHaven welcomes Seth Feuerstein of Cobalt Therapeutics  

Seth Feuerstein

Seth Feuerstein, founder and CEO of Cobalt Therapeutics, presented his company to an audience of students, scientists, and businessmen October 27 as part of the CURE/Yale BioHaven Entrepreneurship Series.

Cobalt Therapeutics markets software that delivers computerized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), used by clinicians, researchers, and healthcare providers for treatment of insomnia, mental illness, and alcohol and drug abuse.

The company's programs have been studied in randomized, controlled clinical trials, with results published in peer-reviewed journals. Through CBT, patients unlearn complex behaviors that are detrimental and learn to substitute new helpful ones, along with exercises needed for continued success.

Feuerstein said that CBT has been proven to be effective and often the best option for problems as diverse as depression, anxiety, and insomnia, but that it has been challenging to deliver CBT broadly due to a shortage of trained clinicians and geographic dispersion of those in need. To solve that problem, Cobalt was formed to provide software that patients can access directly online.

Paul Pescatello

Feuerstein was introduced by Paul Pescatello, the president and CEO of CURE. The BioHaven series is presented by CURE and the Yale Office of Cooperative Research, with Wiggin and Dana and PricewaterhouseCoopers as lead sponsors. The series is also sponsored by Elm Street Ventures, with additional support from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and the Yale Healthcare & Life Sciences Club.

One mental health problem Cobalt has targeted is insomnia. Feuerstein said it affects about 10 percent of the U.S. population, or 30 million people. To treat that population via traditional cognitive behavioral therapy alone, without use of an online program accessible to patients such as Cobalt's, would require a population of at least 400,000 US therapists, Feuerstein estimated. Yet the number practicing in the country today is at most 215,000, Feuerstein said.

Sample user interface

Feuerstein noted the concept of computerized CBT was pioneered in the UK in the mid 1990s but as late as 2008 was little known in the US. He said that he and his team at Cobalt considered various business models, including a web interface direct-to-consumer, but that the team's research indicated that clinician-guided programs were the most effective. "So we are not a caretaker but a software provider to caretakers," Feuerstein said.

Feuerstein said that a typical customer for Cobalt software might be a clinic that will buy a license for X thousand users. "Right now they offer nothing for insomnia, and they realize that's a problem," he said.  "We've been talking to one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, and they will probably be piloting our product in one region."

Feuerstein believes that Cobalt has a substantial pipeline. "Besides the insomnia platform, we have independent programs coming out for alcohol, drugs, anxiety, OCD, and depression," he said.

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