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Digital healthcare

KT makes another step beyond telecom, enters digital therapy sector

KT and other South Korean telecom players are making bold moves outside the mobile business

By Jun 15, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

KT's Head of Future Value Promotion Office Kim Hyung-wook (left); NeuroSigma CEO Leon Ekchian (right)
KT's Head of Future Value Promotion Office Kim Hyung-wook (left); NeuroSigma CEO Leon Ekchian (right)

The telecom companies in South Korea, one after another, are taking bold steps outside their traditional turf of mobile business.  

They are engaging themselves in quantum cryptography and cybersecurity. They will also put hundreds of millions of dollars to compete in the over-the-top (OTT) streaming market, either in partnership with the existing TV broadcasters or with production houses and individual content creators.

SK Telecom Co., the largest mobile carrier in the country, will even split itself in November to create an investment-oriented company to grow ventures outside the telecom business.

And now, the country’s representative telecom company KT Corp., formerly known as Korea Telecom until 2002 when it was privatized, has entered the digital therapeutics market.

KT said that it signed a strategic partnership agreement on June 14 with NeuroSigma Inc. of the US to develop and commercialize electronic therapies, inside and outside of Korea, to treat neurological and neuropsychological disorders including ADHD, depression and epilepsy.

“Starting with our strategic partnership with NeuroSigma, we will actively foster and promote digital therapeutics, including electronic drugs, as the foundation of our new and innovative healthcare business,” said KT’s Head of Future Value Promotion Office Kim Hyung-wook.

Digital therapeutics are therapeutic interventions driven by software programs to prevent, manage, or treat a medical disorder or disease.

NEUROSIGMA'S DIGITAL THERAPEUTICS

NeuroSigma’s trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) method of digital therapy operates through mild electrical stimulation of a cranial nerve called the “trigeminal nerve” including those located near the surface of the forehead.

The method uses a device called the Monarch eTNS System, the first non-drug treatment for pediatric ADHD cleared by the FDA in 2019. The Monarch eTNS System is used by attaching a palm-sized patch onto the patient’s forehead where a smartphone-sized electronic device sends low-intensity electronic currents to stimulate brain nerves.

The Monarch eTNS System by Neurosigma is a medical device that provides mild brain stimulation.
The Monarch eTNS System by Neurosigma is a medical device that provides mild brain stimulation.

NeuroSigma plans to expand the scope of the Monarch device’s application to depression and epilepsy as well. The company says that the most common side effects of the device are drowsiness, fatigue and an increase in appetite, which are considered milder than anxiety or addiction often caused by ADHD medications.

KT said it will launch a subscription-based healthcare service based on NeuroSigma’s digital therapies. KT is currently working to create its own digital healthcare platform by the end of 2021. The platform will utilize KT’s AI, big data analysis and cloud technologies to examine the health data of the patients receiving the therapies.  

KT will also form various partnerships with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, academic associations as well as biotech ventures to oversee its new partnership with NeuroSigma.

KT'S EFFORTS IN DIGITAL HEALTHCARE

In 2020, KT established a new division, the Digital & Bio-Health Organization, within the Future Value Promotion Office and under the direct control of CEO Koo Hyun-mo, to strengthen its digital healthcare business.

Other digital health initiatives led by KT include the AI-based senior healthcare project in partnership with baikal.ai Inc. The project, kicked off last month, offers health risk prediction services using KT’s AI speaker GiGA Genie.

KT is also jointly developing a DNA-based healthcare service with NGeneBio Co. for uses outside hospitals and medical facilities. The service will analyze personal DNA information to provide a more customized healthcare management.   

Write to Han-gyeol Seon at always@hankyung.com

Daniel Cho edited this article.

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