16 Oct 2019

Our Investment in Healx: revolutionising rare disease treatment discovery

Everything changed for drug discovery wizard Dr David Brown and PhD biophysicist Dr Tim Guilliams when they came across the story of Matt Might, an American entrepreneur whose persistence resulted in his disabled, sick son being diagnosed with a completely new, rare disease.

There are currently around 7,000 rare diseases, affecting 400 million people in the world — a group as large as the population of the USA — 50% of which are children. These conditions are often chronic and life threatening, and the vast majority have a genetic component. Only 5% have a treatment.

David and Tim saw how the medical profession had let Matt down, and realized that Matt and his son were not alone: the traditional drug discovery model does not serve rare disease patients.

Traditional drug discovery is predominantly focused on blockbuster drugs for prevalent, well-known diseases; it’s expensive, risky and takes many years which rare disease patients don’t have. Using the commercial model, it typically takes 12–15 years with a price tag of between $2–3bn and a failure rate of 95% to develop a drug.

That’s why they founded Healx. The company’s mission is to improve the lives of rare disease patients by using AI to accelerate the discovery and development of treatments at scale.

Atomico is proud to announce its partnership with Healx. At Atomico, we believe in the power of technology to change lives, and that mission-driven approach at Healx immediately stood out to us. As part of this investment, Atomico Principal Irina Haivas will join the board.

Combining innovative technology, deep pharmacological expertise and extensive patient engagement, Healx has developed the world’s most comprehensive AI-based drug discovery platform for rare diseases. They’ve named it Healnet, and they can use it to move towards clinical trials for new treatments 80% faster, 80–90% cheaper and with a greater chance of success than conventional drug discovery methods.

Using Healnet, Healx have already discovered potential treatments for diseases such as Fragile X syndrome, Pitt Hopkins, neuroblastoma and CDKL5 which were validated in preclinical testing. In partnership with the FRAXA Research Foundation, Healx are set to start clinical trials for Fragile X — the leading genetic cause of autism — later this year.

Healx are also launching the global Rare Treatment Accelerator programme with this round of funding. With 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.

Healx’s mission is to advance 100 rare disease treatments towards the clinic by 2025.

We are excited to join the Healx team on their journey.