Rare Diseases

Utah startup on the fast track to finding drug therapies for rare diseases

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah startup has quickly made big strides in drug research. In just three years, Recursion Pharmaceuticals has found a way to put a time-consuming process on a fast track.

There is a sense of pride, optimism and excitement as Recursion CEO and co-founder Chris Gibson shows us around the ever-expanding company with its state-of-the-art labs.

“This is our automation area where we are doing something like 30,000 to 50,000 experiments each week,” Gibson says.

At Recursion Pharmaceuticals, it is all about speed. Here, automation is accelerating the search for rare disease treatments.

Back in 2013 as a research scientist screening existing drugs that might be effective in treating a rare brain disorder, Gibson decided to pit computers against biologists in an effort to streamline the process.

Gibson talks about the results of that competition. “It ended up being the computer that was better at that one particular task of looking at thousands and thousands of images of millions and millions of cells.”

Recursion’s chief technology officer and co-founder Blake Borgeson was intrigued by the ideas his friend Gibson was pitching. “When Chris described to me how to potentially use images to capture this really rich information from biology very quickly, a kind of switch flipped in my head,” says Borgeson.

Today, Gibson and Borgeson are putting software and science together to analyze cell images. The Recursion computers are scanning 24/7 for signs a drug can control or reverse deadly…