A new way to finance drug development, for rare disease and beyond with Alok Tayi | Podcast #28
Welcome to Talking Precision Medicine — the podcast in which we discuss the future of healthcare and health technology, and how advances in data and data science are fueling the next industrial revolution.
In this episode, our host and Genialis CEO Rafael Rosengarten spotlights Vibe Bio. Vibe Bio is a new biotech aiming to disrupt how we finance drug development through stakeholder communities and cryptocurrency, starting in the rare disease arena. Our guest is Alok Tayi, co-founder and CEO of Vibe. Alok is a successful serial entrepreneur and a rare disease community member.
Come on in and have a listen.
Through a more precise understanding of the origins of every disease and the increasing ability to test and diagnose more effectively, subpopulations and communities are starting to emerge around individual diseases as well as within a given larger scale disease, that was historically considered a monolithic disease (like cancer).
Because of this fragmentation and smaller patient populations a lot of rare diseases and some sub-segmented spaces of larger scale diseases, aren’t very well known and aren’t getting a lot of attention from biotech companies or grant-making institutions. As a consequence the lack of infrastructure and channels to reach the patients creates a desert in terms of the innovation landscape.
Out of approx 13,000 known human diseases, around 10,000 are categorized as rare diseases. And even though 1 in 10 Americans suffers from a rare disease, only 5% of rare diseases have a known treatment. The problem with drug development — especially for rare diseases — is not that we can’t find the drugs; it’s that we don’t have the funding to do it.
It’s often possible to show that a drug works in preclinical proof of concept but in order to advance it into a clinical trial, ten times as much capital and a different set of expertise would be needed. This is why many promising drugs end up on a shelf.
Vibe Bio is building a community of patients, scientists, and partners to identify promising treatments and fund their development through their cryptocurrency token sale mechanism. Their approach is to have a single token, called the $VIBE token, which is used to moderate the activities of a particular overall community.
Patients, scientists, and investors come together to make up the Vibe Bio decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) – the community of $VIBE token holders. Patients and scientists are granted the token for free, but the token is sold to external investors in order to build a balance sheet for a community. Together, members of the community can propose to study and fund a promising treatment, evaluate the approach, and decide which ones to pursue next.
Vibe Bio uses the money raised from token sales and approved by the community to advance the drug development work into clinical trials and manufacturing. The decision to pursue a specific treatment is based on the findings of a drug development experts committee that ranks and stacks proposals according to scientific feasibility.
As these treatments are commercialized or are licensed by other pharmaceutical companies, the capital returns to the DAO and patient advocacy organizations. The community can use those returns to fund future projects.
This approach gives unprecedented ownership, empowerment and voice to the patients and their communities. It also brings a fresh source of financing to the table and offers additional capital to the relatively small percentage of traditional seed and series A funding in the rare disease space.
“We focus on large diseases (as we should) where we tend to put large amounts of money at very high risk to single programs, but I think that rare disease space has an unique opportunity to say a more modest sum of capital spread across a much larger number of bets could be an equally successful business model.”