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15 February, 2016 - 09:25 By Kate Sweeney

Genomic signatures matched to best drugs for rare disease sufferers

Tim Guilliams, third left, with investors and backers at a Healx board meeting

Healx, the Cambridge UK startup founded to match potential new cures to the world’s rarest diseases, has developed a novel treatment allocation method allowing prediction of drug response.

It is based on genomic signature matching between an individual patient and a drug.

Founder Tim Guilliams tells Business Weekly: “We believe the impact could be enormous, including for the healthcare system. We are therefore exploring a health-economics study with Cambridge University to quantify the potential impact of our approach on drug wastage and patient outcome.”

A Series A funding round is being planned to underpin further commercialisation of the Healx strategy and scale the business internationally.

“This incredible breakthrough was led by Healx CSO David Cavalla and the technology team,” says Guilliams. “We strongly believe these latest developments could significantly impact clinical outcomes and eliminate a lot of drug wastage in hospitals.”

The methodology allows medical experts to accurately predict which recommended drug treatments would most likely benefit a particular patient.

Guilliams said the ability to predict the most effective treatment first or identify which patients were unlikely to respond positively to a prescribed therapy could benefit patients and hospitals in a number of ways.

There is typically a range of approved medications for each condition suggested by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Identifying which is likely to have the highest impact at the investigation stage of a patient’s journey will ensure they get the right treatment first time, aid faster recovery and reduce attendance and admission to hospital.

There is also a potentially huge benefit to hospital pharmacies: Delivering the right medication first time will increase cost effectiveness and reduce drug wastage.

With the NHS under huge financial pressures, the cost savings could prove game-changing, Guilliams believes. Healx’s original focus is in drug re-purposing for rare diseases, ie finding new
uses for existing treatments in order to address therapeutic unmet needs. The proprietary technology platform developed at Healx uses machine learning algorithms to match genomic signatures of drugs and diseases, predicting new uses for existing drugs.

Initially, the work was focused on matching approved therapies to rare disease, which is continuing. But further enhancement of the technology means Healx is now able to match drug profiles to individual patients and predict whether they are likely to respond to a particular treatment.

The technology also allows medics and researchers to test against a specific range of approved drugs for a particular condition, identifying which drug is more likely to deliver the most positive outcome for a patient.

Healx has performed an initial proof of concept for a cancer named multiple myeloma and believes it is able to accurately predict whether a patient will respond to the suggested drug.

The company, based at St John’s Innovation Centre, is now applying this to compare potential efficacy with existing available treatments; it believes it could expand the approach to other cancers and diseases.

Photograph: Tim Guilliams, third left, with investors and backers at a Healx board meeting


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