Helex creates, verifies, and distributes therapy-specific gRNAs using its own genomics data, bioinformatics, and intelligent data-driven platform. Helex was established in the year 2021.
According to National Human Genome Research Institute "Mice and humans share about 85 percent of their genes! By changing a single gene or multiple genes in a mouse, scientists can observe how these changes affect the mouse's health and predict how similar changes in human genomes might affect human health.” and hence gene editing can be practised efficiently.
More about Helex
There are more than 300 million people who are suffering from certain genetic disorders across the world. Helex is focusing on reshaping gene editing by finding a way to make it safer and more reliable. They will provide the promise to the people for treating genetic disorders as there is no cure currently available. That's the vision and motivation for them.
Rohini Kalvakuntla states “For the first time, an individual can read a genome through sequencing and find areas that are causing disease and be able to edit it specifically. But to take this amazing technology and make therapies out of it we have to be very careful and precise. The technology that Dr.Poulami Chaudhuri is leading and we are building is to make the editing so specific that it only edits wherever needed, so that we can come up with safe therapeutics. We want to provide cures for conditions like inherited blindness, beta thalassemia, Sickle cell disease, and different types of cancer. We want to accelerate the development of therapeutics.”
Treatment offered by Helex
Helex intends to begin with rare diseases and then expand its reach to include common diseases. The potential is not only immense for treating genetic disorders but also for health issues like IBK and heart attacks. Even chronic diseases like Diabetes can be cured by gene editing. The vision is to solve any disorder that can be reversed genetically.
Rare diseases for which Helex is providing treating
Helex is broadly looking at Liver based indications and also are very focused on diseases of the eye like blindness in kids, retinal disorders, and other disorders. Currently, a lot of work is undergoing within blindness in kids and retinal disorders.
Impact of Covid on Helex
Helex was started within the midst of Covid, and the push and speed at which healthcare has progressed were huge. The whole world came together and the speed at which the entire ecosystem moved was very encouraging for gene therapies and editing. From the start-up and business perspective, it was the perfect time as pushing towards the unknown and making it happen was very promising. People became more aware and knew even better about gene editing. Covid was the most fruitful time for the company.
Customer base of Helex
India is one among the best 12 destinations for biotechnology worldwide. Helex is yet to look at approved therapy and market which is estimated to happen within the next couple of years. In the periods of next 3 to 5 years, the company is hoping for conducting clinical trials where they start to touch people's lives.
The biggest USP Helex is providing is genetic therapies that they offer are accessed for safety, and they bring these safe therapies to the market. This unique way is going to be a revolution for the entire world in the future.
Rules and regulations regarding gene editing
Somatic gene editing is acceptable, while the risk and reward are also high. It also does not pass out from one generation to another generation. India is taking important steps and following guidelines for gene editing keeping in mind the off-targets.
“The only hope and cure we have for rare genetic disorders is gene editing, which doesn't even have enough management. The quality of life and disease burden is so high that the risk to reward is also very high, to do something like gene editing. That is why we are focusing on rare diseases compared to other diseases where there are curative options available.” states Rohini Kalvakuntla the Co-Founder of Helex.
Funds raised to scale up Helex
Helex was a part of IndieBio, a U.S based accelerator that is one of the world's largest biotech accelerators. Helex got its initial funding from IndieBio. Additionally, Helex also got support from SOSV, Genesis Consortium, and other angel investors based out of the U.S and the U.K. These funding helped them to achieve some of the milestones and they feel very privileged for all the support that they got.
Goals and future expansion plans
Helex is based out of New York but they also have its labs in Hyderabad as well. Dr.Poulami Chaudhuri states “We are starting in the U.S, but our goal ultimately is to get it to India. It is not just about making gene editing therapies but also making them accessible to people quickly and cost-effectively. We want it to be accessible to 300 million people and not just 10 people who can afford it. One of the biggest markets we want to target is India because the genetic burden is very high in our country. It is important to touch these lives too.”
Rohini Kalvakuntla states “It will be a win-win situation for us. As we go forward with manufacturing and regulation, it is a huge step and we can take advantage of it in India. We are big in terms of small molecules, pharma development, etc. India will be one of the leading countries in gene editing and we want to be pioneering that. So hybrid presence for us makes more sense now.”
How has gene editing tools been a game changer for Helex?
There are many tools for doing gene editing like ZFN, Stalins, and CRISPR-Cas9 which allows an individual to edit the necessary genes in a clean manner and cure disorders. CRISPR technology and other newer gene editing technologies have made it more precise and safe as critical. Helex has made significant progress in 10 years to get it to clinics in such a short amount of time and they are only getting better at it. The ease with which CRISPR-Cas9 can be performed is one of the most important aspects of it.
Message for entrepreneurs
Having vision and being passionate about it is important. Dream big, it takes time to teach your goal . Build a startup with the people you trust because 90 out of 100 times it is going to be bad but the remaining 10 times it is going to be worth it.
(Edited by Elvis Almeida)