Novartis works with video game developers on new NET app

By Laura Lovett
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Image Courtsey of Novartis Pharamaceuticals. ©2018 Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. All rights reserved.

Novartis is looking to digital storytelling as a way to help cancer patients and their families. Last week, the pharma company announced that it would be launching the Galaxies of Hope app, which lets patients, providers, and caregivers explore the challenges of coping with neuroendocrine tumor (NET) cancer through a multimodal approach. 

The app uses the real-world stories of people and providers dealing with NET, which encompasses several types of cancers, to guide users through the experience. It was designed to help patients and caregivers cope with the illness.

In order to create the platform, Novartis teamed up with video game company Numinous Games.

“Novartis asked us to create a platform specifically designed for the NET cancer community,” Amy and Ryan Green, founders of Numinous Games and the developers of the app, wrote in an email to Babyforyou.net.ua. “We had the unique experience of sharing our own medical journey with the world through a videogame, and we had been looking for a way to help other people share their experiences. We interviewed patients, caregivers, and physicians and asked them to describe, in their own words, what it’s like to navigate the patient journey. These interviews informed the artwork and design of this experience, which along with the audio of their interviews, is intended to be representative of the various emotions, obstacles, and successes expressed by these NET cancer patients, their caregivers, and physicians.”

The platform offers three different tracks: patient, provider, and caregiver. Each track is interactive and lets the user swipe through the story. Users can also tap on different sparkling lights and listen to interviews with people who have gone through the experience, according to the Greens. 

The connection to cancer treatment and loss is personal to Amy and Ryan Green. 

“Our first video game, 'That Dragon, Cancer,' told the story of our son Joel and his experience battling a rare brain cancer,” the Greens wrote. “We were incredibly honored to be able to share Joel’s story with others. In Galaxies of Hope, we give a broader view of the experience of many different NET cancer patients and their loved ones and physicians. Much like our first video game, Galaxies of Hope feels a little like an interactive documentary, but it was very much designed around this specific community and we hope it serves them well.”

While the pharma giant hasn’t been involved with any digital storytelling apps like this before, it has certainly been looking into in digital health. This interest is evidenced by the company’s recent deal with Pear Therapeutics, where the companies agreed to work on two digital therapeutics together. 

The latest app will be available on Google Play Store in the US in a few weeks. It is currently available in the Apple App Store. 

“At Novartis, our vision is to reimagine how we can provide new platforms for patient support. We believe that this app can have a real, positive impact in the NET cancer community,” Ameet Mallik, EVP and head of US oncology at Novartis, said in a statement. “We hope that the creation of this virtual patient journey experience for the NET cancer community will provide support to those living with this rare disease and those who manage and care for them.”

Correction: A previous version of the story misstated Ryan Green's first name. It has since been updated.