The $250 million mindfulness app company Headspace has big plans to turn meditation into medicine.
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.”
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’ll have to work closely with the FDA. The agency is currently in the process of formalizing its “Digital Health” initiative, which is geared at pulling a range of products from mobile health apps to exercise bands into a larger regulatory umbrella.
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.