AstraZeneca and Verge partner to discover AI-driven drugs for rare neurodegenerative diseases

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AstraZeneca and Verge partner to discover AI-driven drugs for rare neurodegenerative diseases

Verge Genomics is expanding its roster of Big Pharma partnerships by teaming up with AstraZeneca in a substantial $42 million upfront collaboration aimed at discovering new targets for rare neurodegenerative diseases.

This four-year agreement brings together the AI-driven drug discovery biotech Verge Genomics and AstraZeneca’s rare disease division, Alexion. Beyond the initial payment, Verge stands to earn an impressive $840 million in potential milestones, in addition to royalties. In a reciprocal arrangement, Alexion will acquire an equity stake in Verge.

AstraZeneca has an existing presence in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, with candidate drugs in various stages of development for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This new partnership injects fresh vigor into AstraZeneca’s pipeline, thanks to Verge’s cutting-edge AI and machine learning-powered Converge drug discovery engine. The platform leverages extensive human tissue datasets, employing computational analysis to pinpoint potential drug targets with a higher likelihood of success.

“By leveraging Verge’s AI-enabled platform in combination with data from patient tissue samples, we see potential in helping researchers more efficiently identify and validate therapeutic targets for rare diseases. This collaboration will contribute to Alexion’s science-led innovation and may help accelerate our efforts to transform the discovery and development of new medicines for patients with rare disease.”

– Seng H. Cheng, Senior Vice President, Head of Research and Product Development, Alexion

Verge Genomics has already successfully progressed one ALS program from discovery to clinical development. The company’s preclinical portfolio also encompasses programs targeting Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and frontotemporal dementia.

In 2021, Verge made significant strides by entering into high-profile collaborations with Eli Lilly and Merck & Co., attracting substantial investments. Both Eli Lilly and Merck have equity stakes in Verge. Eli Lilly’s partnership includes a three-year research program focused on up to four ALS targets, featuring an initial payment of $25 million and the potential for $694 million in future milestones. According to Verge’s pipeline, this program is currently in the late-stage discovery phase.

“Our collaboration with Alexion is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the combined power of CONVERGE’s technology-enabled approach to drug discovery with Alexion’s expertise in developing and commercializing rare disease treatments. We believe that our work with Alexion will build on our achievements in CNS drug discovery and is indicative of the sustained interest from pharma in the potential of AI to transform drug discovery and development.” 

– Jane Rhodes, Chief Business Officer, Verge Genomics  

Collectively, through these partnerships, Verge Genomics has secured $67 million in non-dilutive capital and the possibility of tapping into an astonishing $1.5 billion in milestone payments, alongside royalties as these programs advance.

This latest collaboration with AstraZeneca not only underscores Verge Genomics’ prowess in the AI-driven drug discovery arena but also highlights the growing commitment of pharmaceutical giants to harness cutting-edge technologies in the quest for innovative solutions to challenging medical conditions.

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