Solving one of the biggest challenges in healthcare

Solving one of healthcare’s biggest challenges head-on with precision medicine Hundreds of billions of dollars […]

Solving one of healthcare’s biggest challenges head-on with precision medicine

Hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted annually prescribing drugs of limited clinical benefit to patients, even though effective alternative therapies are often available. The leading contributor to this waste is blockbuster autoimmune disease therapies such as tumor necrosis factor-ɑ inhibitors (TNFi), the world’s largest selling drug class.

Consider rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a disease for which 90% of patients are prescribed TNFi drugs as first line targeted therapy. Yet evidence shows that most patients fail to respond to TNFi drugs. In fact, 67 cents of every dollar are wasted on treatments that don’t work for RA patients, meanwhile, patient disease progression is accelerated and there is an increased use of opioids to manage symptoms. Put simply, the current treatment pathway for RA and other autoimmune diseases is broken.

Waltham, Massachusetts-headquartered precision immunology company Scipher Medicine believes there is a better way.

Predictive testing matches patients with effective therapies

Scipher’s network biology platform combines the mapping of the interactions between more than 19,000 proteins in the human cell, one of the largest molecular data registries in autoimmune diseases, and unique artificial intelligence (AI) network science algorithms to create solutions to help patients.

Scipher is bringing precision medicine to patients with autoimmune diseases by commercializing blood tests that reveal a person’s unique molecular disease signature and matching it to the most effective existing therapy. This ensures providers and payers can select optimal therapy from day one.

Scipher’s first product, PrismRA, is a blood test that analyzes the molecular profiles of patients with RA to identify those unlikely to respond to TNFi therapy. A recent study showed that patients who were prescribed a treatment guided by their PrismRA results had a significantly improved clinical response rate of more than three times compared to patients whose therapy selection was not guided by PrismRA results.

“The ability to predict non-response to TNFi therapy is clinically very valuable,” said Sam Asgarian, M.D., MBA, chief medical officer at Scipher. “PrismRA allows patients to potentially bypass a very costly drug class with an exceptionally low response rate, something that’s been troubling the Rheumatology community for decades. Integrating PrismRA testing into the care pathway for patients with RA improves clinical outcomes while decreasing pharmacy and medical costs.”

Nearly 15% of American rheumatologists are using PrismRA, and Scipher has already partnered with more than 20 healthcare companies to enhance private payer coverage for the blood test. Beyond RA, Scipher is developing similar tests for ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, all intended to optimize therapy selection in patients with these autoimmune conditions. Scipher plans to launch at least one new test a year for the next five years.

“A blood test capable of predicting patient responses to a commonly prescribed class of RA therapies could fundamentally shift the treatment paradigm,” said Vibeke Strand, M.D., adjunct clinical professor, Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, Stanford University School of Medicine. “Broad adoption of this important advancement could result in significant improvements in treatment outcomes.”

Harnessing data to develop innovative therapies for autoimmune diseases 

In therapeutics, molecular and clinical data generated from Scipher’s tests and analyzed by the company’s platform fuels development of new targeted therapeutics. In addition to partnering with pharma companies to discover, develop and commercialize new and more effective therapeutics, Scipher is advancing a pipeline of novel targets and assets in various phases of preclinical validation.

Scipher’s first pharma partner, Galapagos NV, is exploring several therapeutic targets in UC. With GNS Healthcare, Scipher is using a proprietary AI platform to test medications in so-called in silico RA patients, or computer models of patients with the disorder. And with TARA Biosystems, Scipher hopes to identify treatment targets in cardiac laminopathy, a heart condition caused by a single gene mutation that currently has no cure.

“We expect to extend the use of our platform to other disease areas in the future,” said Alif Saleh, CEO of Scipher Medicine. “We are working urgently to enable access to PrismRA and the tests that follow, and to advance therapeutics to help more people.”

Investors are bullish about Scipher’s prospects to solve this major problem.

Tim Anderson, partner and head of Research at Cowen Healthcare Investments notes, “Precision medicine has transformed oncology in ways we could only imagine a decade ago. The next frontier to tackle is autoimmune diseases where very few if any solutions exist today. Scipher is uniquely positioned to lead this field with the company’s data platform, products, team and business model.”

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