Gilead and Verily Team to Tackle Three Inflammatory Diseases


Gilead Sciences and Verily Life Sciences, a Google/Alphabet company, have teamed up to focus on three inflammatory diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and lupus-related diseases.

The two companies will use Verity’s Immunoscape platform, which combines immunogenomic phenotyping and advanced computational analysis to profile the molecular characteristics of inflammatory diseases. The collaboration is planned to last three years. Gilead will provide clinical data and thousands of immune cell samples that have been involved in the company’s ongoing Phase II and III clinical trials.

The goal is to provide new insights into the diseases that might be used to select more appropriate therapies to subgroups of patients, or to help identify new molecular targets to develop new drugs.

“Inflammatory diseases are complex and heterogeneous, and despite treatment advances, most patients experience neither deep nor long-lasting remissions,” said John McHutchison, Gilead’s chief scientific officer, head of Research and Development, in a statement. “We are excited to be collaborating with the scientists at Verily to accelerate our understanding of these common and serious inflammatory diseases. We hope to ultimately improve patient outcomes using this cutting-edge technology to identify molecular disease pathways that would otherwise remain undetected.”

According to Forbes, Gilead is paying Verily $90 million over three years. Hutchison told Forbes, “We’re very excited to get started. It’s really a strong scientific collaboration to understand these immunologically driven diseases.”

In 2015, Gilead acquired the rights to develop filgotinib for $2 billion from Belgian company Galapagos. Filgotinib is a Janus kinase 1 (JAK1)-selective inhibitor being investigated by Gilead in RA, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. Clinical trials are ongoing.

Forbes writes, “McHutchison says previous efforts to look at white blood cells in these diseases have turned up very little light. But he says that using Verily’s tech, it will be possible to separate these cells into two-dozen different subtypes, and then to generate data on the RNA expression profiles of each. The result will be a terabyte’s worth of data for every patient tested, an unprecedented amount of information. He says Gilead has been looking at Verily’s technology for ‘a long time’ and has been able to examine tests of the work in both healthy volunteers and other types of diseases.”

Jessica Mega, Verily’s chief medical officer, stated, “With the Immunoscape platform, we are seeking to develop a molecular map of inflammatory diseases that will help us identify and characterize disease mechanisms. This collaboration with Gilead is an incredible opportunity to learn much more about these immune-mediated conditions than ever before, and to hone in on potential paths to deliver more precise medicine to patients.”

On April 19, Verily announced a partnership with Duke University School of Medicine and Stanford Medicine to launch the Project Baseline study. This is a longitudinal study that will collect broad phenotypical medical data from about 10,000 study participants, which they will follow for at least four years.

Verily has always appeared to be ambitious, but it has never been completely clear what the Google company would focus on. And it makes sense, if these two deals are indicative—using massive data analysis engines to sort and analyze healthcare data. In the case of the Duke and Stanford deal, each study site will gather datasets on participants through multiple clinical visits, daily use of a wrist-worn device and other sensors, and interactive surveys using a smartphone, computer or call center. The data will include clinical, imaging, self-reported, physical, environmental, behavioral, sensor, molecular, genetic, and other health-related measurements.

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