Ever walk into a high-end clothing store, tried on an ill-fitting pair of jeans — and settled? Settled, because you were convinced they were absolutely the best pair of jeans on the market, and they obviously fit most people. Uncomfortably wearing those same jeans — pinning, altering, hemming them to fit your body, but ultimately dreaming of that perfect pair that fit like a sleeve. Precise, personalized, perfect — that’s what you really want.
Like jeans, drugs are developed using the law of averages. In order to reach the largest market possible, drug companies identify disease symptoms drawn from large patient populations and develop drugs to treat these generic, fictitious patients. As a result, drugs often fail individual, real patients just like those ill-fitting jeans fail to deliver the comfort and style so hoped for.
It’s easy to see how annoyance becomes (severe) discomfort when two-thirds of patients who are prescribed drugs don’t respond adequately to treatment, and even easier to imagine how such discomfort creates a new demand — a demand for “precision medicine.” Consumers are ready and eager to embrace this new product as reported by Global Market Insights which projects the market value of precision medicine to top $96 billion by 2024, making it one of the most compelling areas for innovative development.
Scipher Medicine is born
Dr. Albert-László Barabási is a researcher at heart, a researcher always seeking collaborative ways to advance his research. In his lab at Northeastern University, he along with Dr. Joseph Loscalzo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital created a platform to map the genetic constitution of a person for the purpose of identifying their disease biology. Disease biology refers to the relationship between a disease and a specific person, and, since diseases may behave differently in each individual, studying disease biology is crucial for accurately prescribing personalized drugs.
Scipher Medicine, brainchild of these geniuses was born when Barabási’s lab manager showed him and Loscalzo the commercial potential of their creation. Research was, and is, Barabási’s speciality — not business. He states, “I know science. I know how to solve problems and create new ones to solve. I can write papers and publish my work. That is what I do best. I do not know business.”
“But,” he concludes, “my lab manager did, and so does Alif.”
Barabási is referring to Alif Saleh, the global business leader who heads Scipher Medicine. Alif is an executive and entrepreneur at heart. With an academic background in systems biology, network theory, and engineering, Alif has successfully led cross-disciplinary teams in technology and business across Asia, Europe, and the Americas – raising over $225 million in venture and private equity capital.
Changing the style of healthcare
Scipher Medicine identifies which drug will work for you based on your fundamental disease biology — not your symptoms, not your disease classification, not your medical bias. With a simple blood test, Scipher can predict which drug you will respond to positively and negatively thereby ensuring the most optimal treatment from day one.
Just as a tailor needs your measurements to determine the best fit for your body, Scipher needs your blood. From this sample, a map of your genetic constitution is generated, and when paired with Scipher’s platform, you receive direction as to which medicines will and will not work for you. Think of the peace of mind this brings, not to mention the health benefits and financial savings!
Scipher has entered the precision medicine market with the view to bring about reform – reform that puts the patient first. Competing in an arena that aims to reduce the amount of money wasted on ineffective, or even harmful, drug products, Scipher’s technology creates a transparent layer between patient and drug manufacturer thereby shifting power to the patient.
This robust, patient-centric platform demonstrates that precision medicine is here to stay, and the keen minds of Scipher are leading the charge.
Coming soon to your hospital
Scipher Medicine is quickly growing beyond the “early stage” designation, but still draws significant support from where it was born: Northeastern University. Commenting on Scipher’s relationship with the University, Jennifer Boyle-Lynch, Co-director of the Center for Research Innovation, notes: “The CRI is proud to have a hand in moving this innovative technology off the shelf and into the clinic. Such success shows that Northeastern’s focus on ‘use-inspired research’ is not just a slogan, but a reality.” And, smiling, she adds: “Scipher has turned medicine ‘inside out.’ They have redefined the way medications are prescribed, and I am excited by a future in which medications are personalized – for you and for me.”
“It’s been a fantastic journey up until now,” Alif remarks. “Collaborating with Northeastern has given us access to some of the brightest minds. But the most thrilling part still awaits,” adding, expectantly: “We are very close to actually taking our science to the people and validating our technology.”
Validation within the sphere of autoimmune disease is Scipher’s next strategic step. “Autoimmunity is an unregulated area where patient health is greatly affected and blockbuster drugs have failed more people than helped,” Alif cites, adding: “Validation is what’s going to drive us forward.”
In a space where wrongly prescribed drugs not only delay healing, but also lead to nasty side-effects (creating even more complications), Scipher’s personalized platform will surely prove to be the best retail therapy ever.
Interested in other Northeastern startups? Check out Quad Technologies.
Want to discover a technological solution to power your enterprise? Contact Mark Saulich, Senior Commercialization Manager, to get started.
Written by Divya Parikh.
Cover photo by Pat Charles. All rights reserved.