Startups, Pharma

AI-based Healx raises $10 million for drug discovery

The UK company is the latest to join ranks of AI-focused drugmakers attracting venture capital.

The researcher who invented Viagra and a colleague at Cambridge University have become the latest to join the ranks of drug developers using artificial intelligence and attracting attention from venture capitalists.

Cambridge, UK-based Healx said Thursday that it had raised $10 million in a Series A funding round, led by London-based venture capital firm Balderton Capital. Fellow British venture capital firm Amadeus Capital Partners and Jonathan Milner – founder of life sciences supplier Abcam – also participated. Cambridge Rare Diseases Network founder Tim Guilliams and David Brown – who invented Pfizer’s erectile dysfunction drug, which is now available as a generic – are the founders of Healx.

The company uses the HealNet database, which maps more than 1 billion disease, patient and drug interactions and was built and maintained using machine learning techniques. The company plans to use the Series A round to expand its team of software engineers, data scientists, pharmacologists and drug development researchers.

The company noted that its platform was used in a drug-repurposing project to discover a drug for fragile-X syndrome – a disorder that leads to inherited autism and intellectual disabilities – that yielded a drug that was ready for clinical trials in less than 15 months, and at substantially reduced cost relative to traditional methods. The project was conducted with the FRAXA Research Foundation, which is focused on fragile-X syndrome.

Healx is one of a growing number of companies using artificial intelligence and machine learning in drug discovery. Another AI-focused drug company that has raised venture capital as of late is San Francisco-based Verge Genomics, which raised $32 million earlier this month from tech-focused DFJ Ventures and several biotechnology venture capitalists. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City-based Recursion said the Food and Drug Administration had given it the green light to start a clinical trial of a machine learning-discovered drug for a rare genetic disease. Nevertheless, the field is still in its infancy, and an expert told MedCity News that there aren’t enough results to judge the value to the drug industry of AI and ML, which he said is being pushed more by the tech industry than by the drug industry.

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