Pharma Focus America

Verge Genomics Partners with Alexion and AstraZeneca for AI-Driven Drug Discovery in Rare Diseases

Monday, September 11, 2023

Verge Genomics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company specializing in AI-driven drug discovery using patient tissue data, has announced a multi-target collaboration with Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease, to identify novel drug targets for rare neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. This four-year agreement includes payments of up to $42 million, comprising an upfront fee, equity, and near-term payments, with the potential for a deal value of up to $840 million, in addition to potential downstream royalties.

Seng H. Cheng, Senior Vice President, Head of Research and Product Development at Alexion, emphasized the potential of combining Verge's AI-enabled platform with patient tissue data to streamline the identification and validation of therapeutic targets for rare diseases. He believes this collaboration will support Alexion's science-led innovation efforts and expedite the development of new medicines for rare disease patients.

Verge's drug discovery platform, CONVERGE™, is a full-stack platform that utilizes highly predictive human tissue datasets and machine learning to identify new drug targets with a higher likelihood of clinical success. Instead of relying on cell or animal models, Verge's platform leverages a proprietary library of genomic datasets derived directly from human tissue, combined with an advanced human-centered biology platform. This approach, validated through Verge's successful progress in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) drug discovery, will be used to identify novel therapeutic targets. Alexion will have the opportunity to select high-potential targets for each indication, with the option to license and advance successful targets through clinical development and commercialization.

Jane Rhodes, Chief Business Officer at Verge Genomics, views this collaboration as an exceptional opportunity to harness the combined strength of CONVERGE's technology-enabled drug discovery approach and Alexion's expertise in developing and commercializing treatments for rare diseases. She believes that this collaboration will further build on Verge's accomplishments in central nervous system (CNS) drug discovery, highlighting the sustained interest from pharmaceutical companies in the potential of AI to revolutionize drug discovery and development.

As part of this collaboration, AstraZeneca will also make an equity investment in Verge Genomics, adding to the company's impressive list of industry-leading strategic investors, which includes Eli Lilly and Merck Global Health Innovation Fund.

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