Vertex and Genomics collaborate to discover new drug targets

Vertex and the UK’s genome analysis firm Genomics plc have announced a three-year collaboration to use human genetics and machine learning to improve discovery of targets for precision drugs.

The collaboration, which is extendable to five years, also aims to understand the clinical impact of human genetic variation and patient stratification in diseases with significant unmet need.

Vertex, which already has a research site in Oxford, hopes the tie-up will advance its efforts to develop transformation precision drugs for people with serious diseases.

Using its analysis technology Genomics plc uses genetics to understand human biology and the likely efficacy and safety of potential novel medicine.

Genomics’ “engine” is the largest of its kind in the world, with over 100 billion data points, using machine learning and statistical algorithms to predict the impact of therapeutic interventions.

It links to human genetic variation at over 14 million positions in the human genome to changes in 7,000 molecular, cellular, and physical measurements and disease outcomes.

Scientists from Vertex and Genomics will work closely to improve target discovery and validation in certain undisclosed diseases.

Both companies will also have the opportunity to suggest additional diseases for the collaboration where genetic evidence is supportive.

Vertex will fund resources committed by Genomics, and Vertex will make milestones and royalty payments to the company for novel targets resulting from the collaboration.

The US pharma has made a £10.5 million equity investment in Genomics as part of its £25 million second round of funding, and Vertex’s chief scientific officer David Altshuler has joined the UK firm’s board.

Altshuler said: “This partnership will pioneer new uses of genomic tools and technologies to advance Vertex’s ongoing work and investment at our Oxford research site and globally to bring new medicines to the patients that need them.”

Peter Donnelly
Peter Donnelly

Professor Peter Donnelly, founder and CEO of Genomics, said: “Human genetics has already been shown to have a substantial impact on the success of novel drug targets. Our next generation of data and algorithms promises to be transformative, not just for target discovery but in biomarker selection and patient stratification.”

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