Verge Will Leverage $98 Million to Validate Platform in the Clinic

Letter B

Verge Genomics, a drug developer that combines artificial intelligence with human genomics, added $98 million in equity funding to its Series B financing round on Thursday. 

The new funding will allow the biotech company to advance its programs and accelerate the development of life-saving treatments for neurodegenerative diseases. 

"We are thrilled that multiple stakeholders in our space, from leading pharmaceutical companies to healthcare and technology investors, recognize the potential of our human-centric AI platform to transform drug discovery for the most challenging diseases of our generation," Verge CEO and co-founder Alice Zhang said in a statement.

The South San Francisco-based company announced the Series B financing, which was led by investment management company BlackRock, along with new healthcare and technology investors such as Eli Lilly, Merck's Global Health Innovation Fund and Vulcan Capital. Existing Verge investors also joining in this round, including the ALS Investment Fund and Tao Capital Partners.

“Our platform has demonstrated its ability to identify novel targets from human datasets for these diseases and rapidly develop them into proprietary clinical candidates. With our Series B completed, the quality and breadth of our shareholder base allows us to validate our platform in the clinic,” Zhang added. “The addition of new clinical datasets has the potential to dramatically improve our self-reinforcing learning platform and accelerate us towards our mission of developing better drugs, faster.”

Verge is focusing its efforts on neurological treatments and uses machine learning and human genomics to accelerate drug discovery for illnesses such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease and FTD. Its platform includes one of the field's largest proprietary genomic datasets derived from human brain tissue. 

The Series A funding round earned in 2018 was significant for Verge. Since then, the company has become one of the first AI-enabled drug discovery companies to discover a novel target and develop it internally into a proprietary clinical candidate entirely using its platform. 

Five months ago, Verge entered into a three-year partnership with Eli Lilly worth potentially more than $700 million to discover and establish new targets for ALS.

"Exponential improvements in technology are converging to create an inflection point in drug development," said William Abecassis, Blackrock's head of innovation capital. "Verge has uniquely positioned itself to harness this opportunity, having developed both a world-class AI discovery platform and the most comprehensive neurodegenerative genomic database of human patients in the world. Together with their team of prominent leaders in neuroscience, we are excited to be supporting them in shaping the next era of technology-enabled drug development.”

Merck GHI Managing Director David M. Rubin, PhD. was impressed with the company’s rapid progress.

“Identifying better targets is one of the critical challenges faced in drug discovery today. The speed with which Verge advanced their lead program underscores the platform's potential to develop new candidates with greater efficiency," he said, sharing the belief that Verge’s platform has the potential to deliver life-changing medicines to patients.

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