With the planned Nov. 18 launch of its program, U.K.-based Healx and partner patient groups seek to cost-effectively merge their knowledge and expertise with the capacity of artificial intelligence (AI) to move potential treatments toward clinical trials within two years.
Conventional drug discovery often takes more than a decade and billions of dollars. Healx’s overarching goal is to have 100 rare disease treatments on the clinical trial path by 2025.
The program is designed to allow Healx and patient organizations to cooperatively review data and other resources, and run that information through the AI platform Healnet, which delivers data-driven treatment predictions. Ultimately, with Healx’s expertise in drug development and rare diseases, Healnet is intended to find and validate the most promising treatment candidates.
The innovative model was validated with the Fragile X Research Foundation (FRAXA) which, with Healx, is expected to soon launch clinical trials of several treatment combinations. Studies for other rare disorders are set for later next year. The FRAXA and Healx have been collaborating for years, which has led to the identification of potential fragile X therapies already approved in the U.S. for other disorders.
“The trials for our fragile X treatments are just the start of the impact we believe our technology is capable of having on drug discovery,” said Tim Guilliams, co-founder and CEO of Healx, in a press release.
“To date, it’s been families and patient groups who have had to become experts in the diseases affecting their loved ones and have often been the ones driving forward the efforts into finding new treatments. With our unique combination of in-house [research and development], industry collaborations and now the Rare Treatment Accelerator, we look forward to supporting these groups in their mission,” Guilliams said.
Led by European venture capital firm Atomico and joined by Intel Capital, Global Brain and btov Partners, this series B funding follows last year’s $10 million Series A round. Investors Balderton Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, and Jonathan Milner participated in both rounds.
“The size of this Series B financing, especially this quickly after our Series A round last year, is an endorsement of the value of our platform and the pace at which we have developed,” said Tim Guilliams, co-founder and CEO of Healx. “It allows us to scale our impact with the launch of our Rare Treatment Accelerator program and to progress into clinical trials.”
Irina Haivas, Atomico’s principal and Healx board member, said “The current, expensive, trial-and-error-based model of drug discovery hasn’t changed in a century. And it especially fails rare disease patients. Fifty percent of these patients are children.”
Patient communities representing diseases with a prevalence of less than five in 10,000 individuals may apply by Jan. 10 to join the program. Initial selections will be announced in February. There are no costs for applicants or patient groups selected.