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21 November, 2019 - 13:52 By Tony Quested

Healx in full Bloom as US ‘veteran’ steers $20m AI disease accelerator

Cambridge business Healx, which repurposes drugs to fight rare diseases, has committed $20 million to launch an accelerator under the auspices of US-based industry veteran Dr Bruce Bloom, who becomes chief collaboration officer to steer the initiative.

Healx’s Rare Treatment Accelerator, investing up to the value of $1m in AI and drug discovery resources per selected rare disease project, is now open for applications.

The partnering programme gives patient groups and Healx the chance to work together to quickly develop repurposed drug treatments using AI.

Dr Bloom will be responsible for overseeing Healx’s existing collaborations and seeking out new global partnership opportunities with a wide range of organisations, including rare disease patient groups, research institutions, investigators and clinical groups.

Dr Bloom has over 40 years of experience in the healthcare industry and joins from Cures Within Reach (CWR), where he was founder, president and CSO from 2005, becoming its CEO in 2017. During his 14-year tenure, CWR enabled more than a dozen repurposed therapies to reach and impact patients.

Partnerships are fundamental to Healx’s mission to accelerate the translation of repurposed therapies towards the clinic. The UK company’s Healnet AI platform, combined with the expertise of their in-house drug discovery team and the unparalleled rare disease knowledge and skills offered by their partners, has allowed Healx to progress projects from treatment prediction stage towards clinical trial phase in a timeframe of 24 months.

The health technology company has been working with a number of patient groups since 2014 including its partnership with the FRAXA Research Foundation to develop new treatments for fragile X syndrome, the leading genetic cause of autism. 

A clinical study with its drug candidates for this indication is planned for the first quarter of 2020, underlining the speed at which Healx’s AI approach can accelerate candidates into human clinical trials.

In line with its strategy, applications are now open for Healx’s RTA programme, which was launched last month alongside the closing of its $56m Series B financing. Deadline for applications is January 10.

Dr Bloom, said: “In today’s world, prioritising patient needs is vital. This is what attracted me to Healx: 95 per cent of rare diseases, afflicting 400 million people worldwide, currently do not have approved treatments.

“Healx’s Rare Treatment Accelerator programme provides great promise to significantly reduce 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 Tim Guilliams, Healx co-founder and CEO added: “Bruce has been involved with Healx as a scientific adviser 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.”

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