asian woman with cigarette

Pic: Yusei/Shutterstock

Japan: CureApp startup that helps smokers quit receives multimillion dollar investment

CUREAPP, a digital health startup that develops apps for treating various ailments such as tobacco addiction, has received US$3.4 million (380 million yen) in investments from financial holding company Nomura Holdings Inc. and Keio University.

The two investors have a venture-capital partnership. CureApp plans to use the funding for product development and expansion in the U.S., CEO Kohta Satake said in an interview with Bloomberg Technology.

CureApp’s success will be decided when the Japanese government decides whether or not the app should be given permission to be used as a treatment eligible for coverage under the country’s health insurance program.

Satake is a physician, specializing in respiratory medicine. His product is now in a trial stage, and he expects it to be approved by 2019. CureApp’s goal is to reach an IPO by 2020, and has plans in place to open an office in California this year.

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The app works by allowing users to interact with a virtual nurse that gives suggestions on how to curb tobacco cravings and monitors progress. Satake was quoted saying: “Giving up smoking can be a lonely battle. Many people want to stop, regardless of the cost, but their efforts are often in vain.”

According to Deutsche Welle (DW), 29.7 percent of Japanese men and 9.7 percent of Japanese women smoke. Japan’s population has been slowly trying to kick the habit for years, with the rate declining to a record 19.3 percent of the population (20.27 million), but progress seems to have stagnated.

Kyoichi Miyazaki, secretary general of the Japan Society for Tobacco Control, was quoted saying: “It has been declining, but we appear to have hit something of a plateau and the rate of decline has fallen. We had expected – and hoped for – more sustained and rapid decline.”