Healx is solving a problem for 400m people by repurposing medicine
The Hustle

Healx is solving a problem for 400m people by repurposing medicine

How an accident that led to Viagra informed the concept behind Healx.

  • Problem: 400m people in the world have a rare disease. There are 7k rare diseases — 95% of which have no FDA approved treatment.
  • Pitch: Healx uses AI to identify existing, clinically approved drugs that could be repurposed to treat rare diseases.
  • Timeline: David Brown and Tim Guilliams founded Healx in 2014, and the company raised a $56m Series B in 2019.

Healx isn’t David Brown’s 1st foray into drug development. The dude’s a big deal in pharmaceuticals — he co-invented Viagra in the ‘90s.

Viagra, though, was discovered by chance

Brown and his team at Pfizer created a drug they thought could be a treatment for cardiac chest pain, but early trials returned disappointing results.

Weeks away from getting the axe, an interesting side effect popped up: the participants had all experienced increased erections.

Brown pivoted immediately and began a new trial for what would later become Viagra.

That happy accident informed the concept behind Healx

The UK-based startup doesn’t actually develop new drugs but uses its AI platform, Healnet, to match existing drugs with the world’s 7k rare diseases, 95% of which don’t have approved treatments.

AI that enables the repurposing of current drugs can save time and money:

It’s hard to beat the legacy of the little blue pill, but we think the potential to cure the millions of people affected by rare diseases — 50% of whom are kids — is just epic.

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