Founder of nonprofit lands at WuXi NextCODE for rare disease push

Christina Waters, Ph.D., is the founder and CEO of Rare Science, a California-based nonprofit that helps children with rare diseases and their families find diagnoses and treatments. She has now joined genomics firm WuXi NextCODE as senior VP, focusing on its rare disease programs.

Her responsibilities will still include using networks and social media to identify and reach out to patients and patient communities, but this time around for a much larger platform.

“Building on our large-scale work, [Waters] is going to take our platform to the next level: putting it directly at the service of patients and families in urgent need,” WuXi NextCODE CEO Hannes Smarason, said in a statement. “Connected with each other and armed with sequence and medical data, we and patients, partnering with research institutions, healthcare systems and pharmaceutical companies, are going to be able to solve and eventually treat more rare disease cases.”

A subsidiary of WuXi AppTec, WuXi NextCODE’s rare disease offering leverages different technologies, including genome sequencing and interpretation, artificial intelligence and a novel data architecture that makes it much easier and faster to query, store and share huge amounts of genomic data, to generate new knowledge that will assist in rare disease diagnosis and drug R&D. The idea is, by screening more patients, researchers will be able to find novel, de novo mutations linked to pediatric rare diseases; these findings are fed to a growing database for more accurate diagnosis and finding the right, personalized way of care.

RELATED: WuXi NextCODE raises $240M to build genomics business

To achieve that, WuXi NextCODE has partnered with some of the world’s best institutions in pediatric medicine, including the Boston Children’s Hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University in China and Genomics England. It has also built the world’s leading database of genetic variation for rare disease.

“Only a platform with millions of genomes can provide the network effect and knowledge base that enable everyone to derive greater benefit, continually attracting more users, more data, and delivering ever more powerful health insights to serve people and patients everywhere,” WuXi AppTec founder and chairman, Ge Li, said back when NextCODE completed a $240 million series B in September.

Waters holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from San Diego State University, a Ph.D. in genetics from UC Davis, an MBA from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA, and was awarded postdoctoral fellowships at UC Berkeley and CalTech. She has previously been involved in works at Novartis, aTyr Pharma, Cell Therapeutics and the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.