The investment arm of biotech giant Amgen has led a new $6 million round of funding in GNS Healthcare, CEO Colin Hill tells Xconomy.
Amgen Ventures’ new investment is a part of the company’s Series C financing round, which now totals $23 million, says Hill, who is also GNS’s chairman and co-founder. Cambridge, MA-based GNS has raised $38 million in total investment capital to date. Alexandria Real Estate Equities also participated in the latest add-on investment.
Thousand Oaks, CA-based Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) isn’t the first drug developer to invest in GNS, which has developed machine learning and data analytics technology that aims to improve healthcare treatments and practices through computer modeling. Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG), based in Summit, NJ, previously contributed to the company’s Series C funding round, as did Italian drug maker Zambon Pharma.
The reason for interest from the drug developers is pretty clear: They believe GNS’s technology may help improve drug development by analyzing the seemingly endless reams of data related to patients and their conditions (including genomic sequencing and health records), biological processes, the success and failure of other treatments, and other parts of testing drugs. (Other companies at the intersection of artificial intelligence and pharma include Atomwise, Berg Pharma, and Qrativ.)
That type of A.I.-related analysis might let pharma companies more quickly and accurately test multiple versions of a specific drug, such as one for multiple sclerosis, to find which is best suited for an individual patient, says Hill (pictured above on left, with Xconomy’s Bob Buderi).
“One can now simulate on a new patient what the impact of multiple sclerosis drug No. 3 versus No. 5 versus No. 8 will be on the clinical outcomes of this patient, and even the total cost of care of this patient,” Hill says.
The GNS technology, which is called Reverse Engineering & Forward Simulation, or REFS, can be used for more healthcare applications than just drug research, Hill says. It also could be applied toward improving medical procedures, medical devices, and care management programs, among other healthcare fields, Hill says.
That’s why other organizations, such as insurers and healthcare providers have also invested in GNS, he says. The company’s other previous investors include Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield (Cambia Health Solutions), Horizon Blue Cross of NJ, Heritage Provider Network, Mitsui, GHO Capital, and Fort Rock Capital.
GNS Healthcare was formed in 2010 out of Gene Network Sciences, which was founded in 2000 by Hill and Iya Khalil—two Cornell-trained physicists—to work on computer-simulated drug research.
Photo by Keith Spiro Photography.