Cambridge-based medtech startup Healx is on a mission to improve the lives of rare disease patients, of which there are roughly 350 million globally. The startup uses AI, machine learning and pharmacological expertise to accelerate the discovery and development of treatments at scale. We covered Healx as one of our 10 Cambridge-based startups to look out for in 2019 and beyond.
Founded in 2014, Healx has now raised €50.7 million in a Series B financing round led by Atomico and joined by Intel Capital, Global Brain and btov Partners. All previous investors, including Balderton Capital, Amadeus Capital Partners, and Jonathan Milner also participated in the round.
Healx previously raised $10 million in Series A funding in 2018. The financing will be used to develop the company’s therapeutic pipeline and to launch its global Rare Treatment Accelerator programme.
With its technology, Healx claims to cut typical development timelines by 80% and reduce costs by 90%. Prior to Healx, CEO and co-founder Dr Tim Guillams obtained his PhD at the University of Cambridge in the field of biophysics and neuroscience, developing nanobody technology for Parkinson’s disease.
Where the traditional drug discovery model takes more than a decade and can run into the billions of dollars, Healx’s AI-driven approach makes the process faster, more efficient and more cost-effective. With the launch of the Rare Treatment Accelerator, Healx and partnering patient groups will be able to scale the impact of this approach by leveraging the power of AI and combining their knowledge, information and expertise so that, together, they can discover new treatments and move them towards the clinic within 24 months. Patient communities can apply to join the Rare Treatment Accelerator online.
The company previously validated their model with the FRAXA Research Foundation. Fragile X syndrome is the leading genetic cause of autism. There are currently no approved treatments for the disease, but as a result of their collaboration, Healx and FRAXA will soon be launching promising clinical trials to test multiple treatment combinations. Further clinical programmes for other rare diseases are set to start later in 2020.
Healx plans to advance 100 rare disease treatments toward clinics by 2025. Healnet, Healx’s AI platform, delivers data-driven treatment predictions, which shortens the discovery-to-clinic timeline to as little as 24 months. It is the world’s leading AI platform on rare diseases and integrates scientific literature, clinical trial results and proprietary data in the form of a biomedical knowledge graph, pinpointing the potential therapeutic relationships between drugs and diseases. Healx’s multidisciplinary team of rare disease and drug development experts work in concert with Healnet to identify and validate the most promising treatments for a given disease.
“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. It allows us to scale our impact with the launch of our Rare Treatment Accelerator programme and to progress into clinical trials,” said Healx co-founder and CEO, Dr Tim Guilliams.
“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. Rare diseases affect over 400 million patients world-wide. Of the 7,000 rare diseases known today, 95% are still without an approved treatment.
“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 R&D, industry collaborations and now the Rare Treatment Accelerator, we look forward to supporting these groups in their mission.”
“The current, expensive, trial-and-error-based model of drug discovery hasn’t changed in a century,” said Irina Haivas, principal at Atomico and board member of Healx. “And it especially fails rare disease patients. 50% of these patients are children, many living with highly debilitating symptoms. Healx has shown that doesn’t have to be the case, by combining AI with world-class pharmacological expertise and putting patients first. We believe that the new paradigm in drug discovery will emerge at the intersection of technology, data, and biology, and we’re confident that Healx’s team is paving the way to a new gold standard in rare disease treatment discovery.”