Healx invites patient groups to apply as it commits $20m to its rare treatment accelerator
Healx has committed $20million to its Rare Treatment Accelerator programme and is now inviting applications from patient groups that would like to collaborate.
The Cambridge firm, winner of AI Company of the Year at the 2019 Cambridge Independent Science and Technology Awards, intends to find new treatments for rare diseases through the programme.
Healx, based at Charter House on Hills Road, uses its artificial intelligence-powered Healnet platform to accelerate the process of repurposing existing drugs - a process that is dramatically quicker and significantly cheaper than traditional drug discovery.
In October, the Cambridge Independent reported how Healx had raised $56million in a Series B funding round and intended to launch up to 40 new programmes with the money.
Its Rare Treatment Accelerator (RTA) will assign up to $1m in AI and drug discovery resources for each selected rare disease project, up to the two-year budget of $20m, and will be led by newly appointed chief collaboration officer Dr Bruce Bloom.
He said: “In today’s world, prioritising patient needs is vital. This is what attracted me to Healx. Ninety-five per cent of rare diseases, afflicting 400 million people worldwide, currently do not have approved treatments and Healx’s Rare Treatment Accelerator programme provides great promise to significantly reducing this number, in part by expediting the often-lengthy drug discovery process.
“I’m eager to bring my passion for repurposing and facilitating research projects harnessing patient power to support Healx’s mission.”
Dr Bloom joins from Chicago-based philanthropic organisation Cures Within Reach (CWR), which he founded, serving as its president and chief scientific officer from 2005 and as CEO since 2017. It has enabled the repurposing of a dozen therapies during his 14 years there.
He is also a science advisor at the rare diseases charity Findacure and has been an Ashoka fellow since 2009.
At Healx, he will also be responsible for overseeing existing collaborations and seeking out new global partnership opportunities with organisations such as rare disease patient groups, research institutions, investigators and clinical groups.
Dr Tim Guilliams, Healx’s co-founder and CEO, said: “Bruce has been involved with Healx as a scientific advisor since the early stages.
“He has witnessed our progress as we built up our knowledge base and generated a robust pipeline of rare disease assets across a number of therapeutic areas.
“His values absolutely align with our patient-first vision to provide affordable, effective treatments to as many rare disease patients as possible.
“We are also excited about our innovative RTA programme, headed up by Bruce, which will allow close collaboration with those who probably know the most about rare diseases - patient groups.”
Healx has been working with patient groups since 2014. Its partnership with FRAXA Research Foundation is helping to develop new treatments for fragile X syndrome, the leading genetic cause of autism, and plans a clinical study of its drug candidates in the first quarter of 2020.
The company says the speed of this progress demonstrates how its data-driven treatment predictions can cut the discovery-to-clinic timeline to just 24 months.
Its mission is to advance 100 rare disease treatments towards the clinic by 2025.
Patient groups have until January 10, 2020, to apply to the rare treatment accelerator. No financial contribution is required from them.
More by this authorPaul Brackley