By the age of 26, Edward Cox was president of the San Diego-based biotech company, Bio-Quant.
Twelve years later, the Carmel Valley resident is CEO of Dthera Sciences, located in the San Diego Innovations Center, also known as the Miramar pyramid.
The firm, founded in 2015 under a different name, is developing cutting-edge technology for the treatment of elderly people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss.
Dthera, which is shorthand for digital therapeutics, created a product labeled DTHR-ALZ. The item, an innovation in the field of reminiscence therapy, received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Breakthrough Device designation in August.
The FDA’s decision clears the way for Dthera to proceed with clinical trials that could prove the device’s effectiveness in treating neurodegenerative diseases among the elderly.
“An FDA breakthrough device designation in the treatment of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia is a wonderful accomplishment,” Cox said. “To achieve this with our second generation product, DTHR-ALZ, is obviously very thrilling and something we can be very proud of.”
DTHR-ALZ evolved from Dthera’s ReminX product, a computerized tablet using the principles of reminiscence therapy through pictures, videos and music to stimulate memories. Such therapy has proven effective in helping seniors feel less disoriented and more connected to the world around them.
“We’ve just made that available on the consumer market,” Cox said of ReminX. “It’s a physical tablet that uses the science of reminiscence therapy to make a difference.
“However, that product makes no medical claims. It’s focused on consumer health and bringing greater comfort and awareness to seniors and their families.”
DTHR-ALZ takes ReminX to a more advanced level so that, with the FDA’s permission, Dthera could promote it with clinical evidence of its medical efficacy.
“Our intention is to go through the breakthrough device designation pathway (with clinical trials),” Cox said. “If the FDA gives us approval, it will be a very exciting and well-recognized accomplishment. Our goal is to become NASDAQ-listed in the near future and to get this product out to all the patients that deserve it.”
Under Cox’s leadership, the company has grown from four employees to 20 since 2015. Cox’s piloting of Dthera and its ascendancy earned him recognition in both the San Diego Metro magazine’s and the San Diego Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 lists. The lists designate whom those publications consider to be the county’s top 40 business leaders under 40 years old.
“Cox has led the growth of Dthera Sciences to the precipice of its first commercial launch and has taken the company from an early stage startup towards an expected NASDAQ listing in the fourth quarter of 2018,” San Diego Metro writes.
An alumnus of the University of Florida’s undergraduate and graduate programs, Cox never envisioned he would be the boss of a medical technology corporation.
“I’ve always wanted to do entrepreneurship,,” Cox said. “I moved out to California to work in film technology, then got involved in startups. Startups gave me the opportunity to get into investment banking.”
That led to a partnership with Dave Keene, a specialist in the use of story-telling technology. At first, Cox said, they weren’t sure what the technology that became ReminX and DTHR-ALZ would work for.
The idea of orienting it toward reminisce therapy came as a revelation, thanks to a pilot study at UC San Diego.
“We started with that underlying knowledge that we’ve got this incredible thing, Now, what could we do with this?” Cox said. “Then we ran the study at UCSD. It was a small study but the results were very helpful. We said, ‘OK, we have to pursue this. This looks for real.”
What Cox is most proud of, he said, is that Dthera’s products inspire hope..
“It’s something I’m tremendously passionate about,” he said. “I really care about these patients and their families. It’s incredibly rewarding when you get to see such an impact.”
Information about Dthera Sciences is available at dthera.com