Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) is partnering with Verge Genomics in San Francisco to research and develop novel therapies for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Under the terms of the three-year agreement, Lilly will pay Verge up to $25 million up front, with the potential for nearly $700 million and royalties for hitting certain milestones.
To support the collaboration, Verge says it will apply its all-in-human platform to discover and validate new targets for ALS. Lilly says the platform is based on a collection of genomic data from patient brains across neurodegenerative diseases.
Verge says the platform can provide insights that will enable the discovery of therapeutic targets. Based on the insights, Lilly says it will select up to four targets identified by Verge with plans to advance through clinical development and commercialization.
“Verge Genomics is advancing an innovative approach to identifying high-potential drug targets that are validated through artificial intelligence algorithms and a large library of human data,” said Michael Hutton, vice president of neurodegeneration research at Lilly. “This approach complements and enhances Lilly’s neuroscience portfolio and will help facilitate development of what we hope will be transformative new therapies for people with ALS.”
According to Lilly, the average life expectancy of a person with ALS is approximately two to five years, and there is currently no cure for the disease. A major challenge in the treatment of ALS is the underlying complex biology and lack of predictive animal models.
Lilly says recent advances in genetic sequencing and human tissue banking offer a new opportunity to develop breakthrough therapies. Artificial intelligence allows the processing and integration of multiple types of human data generated by the technologies.
“Through this partnership with Lilly, we will examine the use of human data and machine learning to potentially overcome translational hurdles in historically challenging diseases with complex biology,” said Alice Zhang, chief executive officer of Verge Genomics. “This collaboration also builds on the significant momentum for Verge in 2021, as we advance our wholly-owned lead PIKFyve programs for ALS and COVID-19, and continue to expand our discovery and pipeline development efforts in disease areas with significant unmet need.”