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21 January, 2021 - 23:08 By Tony Quested

UK-US alliance targets chronic pancreatitis

Cambridge rare diseases pathfinder Healx is combining its AI and drug discovery expertise with US-powered Mission: Cure’s disease knowledge and preclinical, clinical and patient networks to identify and advance the world’s first effective treatment for chronic pancreatitis.

The alliance forms part of Healx’s Rare Treatment Accelerator Programme. 
Chronic pancreatitis is a sustained inflammation of the pancreas, the organ which helps digestion and regulates blood sugar. 

Chronic pancreatitis can seriously and irreversibly affect the organ’s ability to function properly – leading to severe abdominal pain, scarring, digestive problems and, in many cases, diabetes. 

It is also linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. 

More than 150,000 Americans and over a million people worldwide live with the condition, but sadly, there is currently no treatment available. Therefore, for many patients, the only hope is removal of the pancreas in a major surgery called a total pancreatectomy, which carries significant risks and side effects. 

The new partnership aims to provide an alternative for patients by developing some of the first therapies for the condition.

Healx will be leveraging the power of Healnet – its comprehensive AI platform for rare diseases. Healnet integrates biomedical data from multiple sources to identify known drugs that can be combined and repurposed to create novel treatments for rare diseases. 

The repurposing philosophy is shared by Mission: Cure, which is a coalition of patients, doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs. The team is based in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago but has partners across the US and globally.

Megan Golden, President at Mission: Cure, said: “We are excited to move the needle forward for pancreatitis patients with the help of Healx. Their AI-powered drug repurposing model gives pancreatitis patients hope that they will see an effective treatment for their disease in the next 5 years.”

Meera Swami, Drug Discovery Alliance manager at Healx, adds: “Mission: Cure is an organisation which shares our passion for, and investment in, patient-centred care and drug repurposing for rare diseases. 

“We are looking forward to combining our expertise to accelerate novel therapies for chronic pancreatitis and we hope to have more to share in the next few months.”

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