UK Firm Raises €51M to Repurpose Drugs for Rare Diseases Using AI

The Cambridge-based artificial intelligence company Healx has raised a Series B round of €50.8M to launch an AI tool that reduces the time it takes to develop treatments for rare diseases by five years.

The Series B round was led by the UK VC firm Atomico and includes the returning investor Jonathan Milner, the founder of the online antibody provider Abcam. Healx will use the money to continue the development of drugs for rare diseases. The company will also launch a new program applying AI to the repurposing of existing drugs for rare diseases, aiming to shorten the development time.

The round comes just a year after Healx’s Series A of €8.6M last year. According to Kate Hilyard, COO of Healx, the company has since been ahead of schedule in the preclinical development of its drug programs, so the time was ripe to launch a Series B round. “It was a year earlier than we had planned,” she told me. “Because there was so much investor interest in the company, we decided to raise a Series B now.

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Healx uses AI to collect extensive medical research data about rare diseases and existing drugs. The AI uses these data to predict which drugs could treat incurable rare diseases such as fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that causes learning disabilities. While it can take up to seven years to take a new drug to clinical trials, Healx’s AI technology, combined with using repurposed drugs, is able to shorten this process to two years.

AI is already used in drug discovery to identify targets for new drugs. Most companies use AI tools to analyze one target at a time, whereas Healx’s technology screens many potential targets at once.

Healx has tested its technology in collaboration with the FRAXA Research Foundation over the last three years and has identified eight potential drugs to repurpose to treat fragile X syndrome. The partners are now planning a phase IIa trial of the treatment candidates, and Healx aims to launch clinical trials for other rare diseases next year.


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