Dr David Brown, the co-inventor of Viagra, has raised $10 million for his latest healthcare startup, Healx, which is using artificial intelligence to speed up the development of medicines that can be used to treat rare diseases.
The funding round was led by venture capital firm Balderton Capital, which has also backed companies like Citymapper, Bebo, and Revolut. Existing investors, Jonathan Milner and Amadeus Capital also participated in the series A round.
Brown, Healx’s chief scientific officer, founded Healx in 2014 with Cambridge University professor Dr Andreas Bender and Dr Tim Guilliams, who completed a PhD at Cambridge in biophysical neuroscience before becoming an entrepreneur.
Brown initially developed viagra to treat heart patients but it soon became apparent that it could be used for other purposes. That’s essentially what he’s trying to do now. Except this time, he wants to find out which existing drugs can be used to treat rare diseases (without too much tweaking).
To do this, Healx has developed a platform called HealNet, which the company describes as one of the world’s most extensive knowledge bases for diseases. It’s said to contain over a billion unique data points that connect diseases, patients and drugs. HealNet uses machine learning to find new uses for existing drugs. The aim is Healnet will lead to automated, large-scale drug discovery.
“The traditional drug discovery process takes 10 to 15 years at a cost of $2 billion per new drug and with a failure rate of 95 percent – it’s broken, it’s slow, it’s high failure, and it’s not economic for rare diseases,” Brown said in a statement.
“However, today’s technology can change that and help 350 million under-served rare disease patients. Healx is showing that we can massively transform the rate of discovery of new medicines, reducing timelines and costs.”