Verge Genomics Named ‘Fierce 15’ Biotech for Novel Work in ALS

Biotech partnering with Eli Lilly in $700M deal to develop AI treatments

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by Mary Chapman |

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The treatment development company Verge Genomics — known for its all-in-human artificial intelligence platform — has been named among the “Fierce 15” by daily email newsletter Fierce Biotech.

Verge’s inclusion by the web resource in the 20th annual Fierce 15 listing, announced in a company press release, acknowledges its promise as an early-stage biotechnology company — one using artificial intelligence (AI) and human data to develop new therapies.

The biotech was one of the first companies to uncover PIKfyve, a novel target for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and to develop a treatment candidate in-house. That investigational ALS treatment is expected to begin clinical testing later this year, just four years after the target’s identification.

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Eli Lilly, Verge Partner to Identify and Test Potential ALS Therapies

PIKfyve has been cited as one of the most promising targets uncovered for ALS. In a landmark AcuraStem study, for example, molecules blocking the enzyme’s activity demonstrated the most powerful and broadest efficacy among ALS subtypes in a molecular screen.

The investigational PIKfyve inhibitor was developed using Verge’s AI-powered CONVERGE treatment discovery and development platform. The platform integrates technological innovations from discovery to translation to streamline medicine development.

“We’re in a watershed moment for biotech, where technological innovations in chemistry, engineering, biology, physics, and material science are converging at an unprecedented pace,” said Alice Zhang, Verge Genomics CEO and co-founder.

“This has forged a new wave of biotechnology companies led by non-traditional CEOs. We’re happy to see an increasing recognition of the role that companies like Verge are playing in shaping tomorrow’s biotech ecosystem,” added Zhang.

Verge last year entered a three-year, $706 million partnership with Eli Lilly to research and develop novel treatments for ALS. While Verge focuses on discovering and validating prospective new therapeutic targets, Lilly will choose candidates to advance with the aim of bringing them to market.

“Our partnership with Lilly [and recent investments] demonstrate industry confidence in the ability of Verge’s AI/[machine learning]-enabled CONVERGE platform to deliver novel targets and to develop them rapidly into viable clinical candidates,” Zhang said.

Verge has worked to develop a vast collection of gene expression data related to neurodegenerative disorders, such as ALS, frontotemporal dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. The company’s algorithm estimates how genetic variants can lead to disorders, enabling it to find new treatment targets for these conditions.

Fierce Biotech issues a daily report to more than 450,000 biotech and pharmaceutical professionals, providing analyses of top industry stories. Each year, it assesses hundreds of early-stage companies globally for its Fierce 15 list — reviewing factors such as technology, partnerships, venture company backing, and market position.

The 20th annual Fierce 15 designation “celebrates the spirit of being ‘fierce’” in innovation and creativity, according to Verge.