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28 April, 2021 - 14:26 By Tony Quested

Healx hires ex-Dyson and GCHQ ace as VP of AI

Experienced machine learning and engineering leader Andrew Watson has joined Healx from technology giant Dyson as VP of Artificial Intelligence.

His mission is to deepen the investment in Healx’s AI team, scaling Healx’s technical capabilities to identify and progress more novel treatments for rare diseases. 

Watson’s appointment reinforces Healx’s commitment to technical excellence and AI innovation and follows the senior appointment of ex-Monzo CTO Meri Williams last year and a 122 per cent growth in Healx’s technology team in the last 12 months.

Watson has a wealth of scientific and technical expertise accrued over 15 years in the field. At Dyson he was the founding member of the Machine Learning research department, leading the research and implementation of ML and AI across a variety of global product categories. 

In his time as director of ML at Dyson, Watson also established a new research group, focused on the intersection between machine learning and cutting-edge biomedical research.

Prior to Dyson, Watson also oversaw various innovation projects at security software company Symantec, where he was responsible for – amongst other things – architecting and delivering the world’s largest repository of information security data. He has also led technical teams at GCHQ and is currently undertaking a PhD in Pharmacy and Pharmacology at the University of Bath, with a focus on the pharmacokinetics of topically applied drugs. 

Renowned for delivering novel solutions to ‘impossible’ problems, his expertise will be a huge asset to Healx’s work in the rare disease space, where 95 per cent of rare conditions remain without treatment. A core tool under his remit will be Healnet, Healx’s AI-driven drug discovery platform. 

Healnet integrates data from multiple sources, including biomedical research and scientific literature, to form the world’s most detailed rare disease knowledge graph. This graph can then be analysed by multiple cutting-edge AI methods to rapidly identify and rank novel drug-disease relationships at scale. 

Healx recently announced that it had added its 13th project to its active discovery and development portfolio in April and the team plans to launch its first clinical trial later this year for Fragile X syndrome. 

Watson said: “I’m excited to be joining Healx as it continues to scale. I’ve always been fascinated by applying machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to difficult problems and Healx is a great company for me to apply the skills I’ve learned in previous roles to help make a difference to rare disease patients. 

“The scientists, researchers, and engineers at Healx have developed an unparalleled drug discovery platform in Healnet and I look forward to taking it even further as we continue to unlock the power of AI for rare diseases.”

The appointment is the latest in a stream of senior hires. Eugenia Wachters was appointed as VP of Commercial Portfolio Strategy in December, having had over 25 years of experience in developing commercial and market access strategies for national and international companies. 

Laura Fink joined the team in February from FinTech start-up SETL to lead Healx’s People and Culture team and Mark Youseff was appointed global head of business development in March, joining from Acrotech Biopharma.

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