Verge Genomics, based in San Francisco is one of a series of biotechs that have entered into a new era using AI in drug discovery. The company is backed by Eli Lilly, Merck, and Black Rock with a focus on ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Verge founder Dr. Alice Zang told the Monetary Instances that AI had analyzed a large database of brain tissue and subsequently discovered the drug VRG50635. The first ALS patient has now been dosed with this novel remedy for a disease that has no effective treatment.
Why Use AI?
AI establishes its drug targets, proteins related to specific illnesses, by absorbing large amounts of information in a small amount of time. It identifies molecules that will eventually be developed into medicine.
Experts in the field appreciate AI’s potential. They say it may significantly cut the time between discovery and the drug’s approval as well as cut prices and failure fees.
Dr. Zhang said that it took four years for Verge to succeed in getting its ALS drug into research trials. She noted that the process involved less time and expense than is customary and added that drug discovery usually involves trial and error.
Further, Dr. Zang pointed out that the source for discovery traditionally comes from educational publications. It is examined sequentially mostly in mice or animals to predict which medicine would work in humans. She referred to thousands of dollars spent on clinical trials that often fail.
Dr. Zang recommends beginning with humans rather than with animals.
About the Database
Verge has developed a database that is composed of the tissues from human spinal cords and brains of people who had either ALS, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. The researchers have created a “human illness map”. Using genetic sequencing, the map is to be mined via AI. The goal is to identify therapeutic targets for illness.
Dr. Zhang emphasized that using human information from the beginning of discovery will allow researchers to begin with high-quality human subjects. This will give the teams a better opportunity to reach the clinic.
The strategy adopted by Verge eliminates the need to work through large-scale experiments or review hundreds of medications or illnesses.
The Glass is Half Empty
Some researchers may be optimistic about the success of AI in analyzing a database of tissue from a human brain. But others are not as enthusiastic. Verge is focusing on extremely difficult disorders. In the past twenty years, over fifty therapies attempting to treat ALS have had to withdraw from clinical trials. The only three medicines that gained acceptance offered minimal relief to patients.
Dr. Alix Lacoste, a director at Invitae genetics firm, commented on the distinctive way in which Verge utilizes AI. It analyzes human information rather than relying on animals.
Human trials using AI began on October 31, 2022.