BlackThorn Therapeutics Raises $76M, Boosting AI Drug Development for Behavioral Health

Jack Coleman
JUNE 13, 2019
drug development,blackthorn therapeutics,neurobehavioral health

BlackThorn Therapeutics, a company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to aid in behavioral health drug development, closed a $76 million Series B financing round today.

The company hopes the money will further advance its work in combating mental health through precision medicine. BlackThorn develops next-gen AI technology that furthers drug development for brain disorders. The company has also created its own psychiatry and data platform to efficiently analyze multimodal data.

BlackThorn’s new investors include Polaris Partners, Premier Partners, Scripps Research and Vertex Ventures HC. They will round out the already notable list of backers, which includes Alexandria Venture Investments, Altitude Life Science Ventures, ARCH Venture Partners, Biomatics Capital, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc. and Mercury Fund.

BlackThorn also expanded its board of directors and executive management team. Brian Chee, a managing partner at Polaris Partners and Lori Hu, a managing director at Vertex Ventures HC, and Julie Sunderland, a managing director at Biomatics Capital, joined the board.

Shoring up its executive team, BlackThorn appointed Jane Tiller, who holds the equivalent of an M.D., chief medical officer and Laura Hansen, Ph.D., vice president of corporate affairs.

“I am thrilled to join BlackThorn, particularly at this time when the nexus between artificial intelligence and the latest advances in neuroscience promises to modernize the way we understand and treat behavioral disorders,” Tiller noted.

The new hires and injection of capital mark a jump by BlackThorn toward the intersection of high tech and biotech. The company and its executives share a vision to bring these disciplines together and to create a greater patient outreaching as well as a more accurate responsiveness in clinical studies, according to BlackThorn.

Inside Digital Health™ spoke with Laura Hansen, Ph.D., vice president of corporate affairs, who said the data analyzed by BlackThorn’s AI is multimodal and has a number of features. Such data can be used for clinical scales and can aid in the behavioral task assessments assigned to a number of neurological diseases.

In terms of further uses of such data, Hansen said, “predictive models can be created and divide patients into different subtypes in terms of which patients should receive placebos or actual medicine.”

What does BlackThorn’s AI and its potential for drug development mean, however, for health systems, particularly those involved in clinical research? Within the patient enrichment process, Hansen said, the AI allows for patient heterogeneity, which enables researchers to predict ahead and to have more successful clinical studies. Such examples would include knowing which test patients are more likely to respond to placebos.

“Being able to predict a patients’ response,” Hansen added, “addresses a major challenge found in patient heterogeneity in a clinical setting.”

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