Cambridge-based Healx, an AI-powered biotech company researching treatments for rare diseases, has raised a $56 million Series B led by Atomico, joined by Intel Capital, Global Brain and btov Partners. The investment enables the company to launch its global Rare Treatment Accelerator programme, as well as pursue ongoing research.
Healx is innovating on the traditional drug discovery model, which takes several years and can cost billions of dollars. The traditional route is especially unfeasible for rare conditions, the research for which may not receive much funding.
“Rare diseases affect over 400 million patients world-wide. Of the 7,000 rare diseases known today, 95 percent 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,” said CEO and co-founder Dr. Tim Guilliams.
With AI the discovery process is more efficient and more cost-effective. Healnet, Healx’s AI platform, delivers data-driven treatment predictions and shrinks the discovery-to-clinic timeline to as little as 24 months. The Rare Treatment Accelerator programme is an attempt to scale this impact across various diseases and communities around the world, working closely with patient communities to identify treatments. Healx’s mission is to advance 100 rare disease treatments towards the clinic by 2025.
“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,” continued Guilliams, referring to patient groups and their families and underscoring Healx’s patient-driven approach.
The world’s leading platform on rare diseases, Healnet 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 has already put its technology in collaboration with FRAXA Research Foundation to discover and test treatments for fragile X syndrome, the leading genetic cause of autism.
Irina Haivas, principal at Atomico and board member of Healx 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. 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.”
The new investment follows a $10 million Series A last year, which allowed for senior executive hires and doubling the overall headcount of the team.