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Verge Genomics Earns $32M for AI Drug Discovery


Why the company’s focus on machine learning and big data enticed investors.

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is continuing to make waves in the life sciences industry, with today’s announcement that a drug-discovery company called Verge Genomics has landed $32 million in Series A financing.

Based in San Francisco, Verge Genomics uses machine learning and sprawling data sets to identify new therapeutics for neurological diseases. Since its founding in 2015, the startup has nurtured “lead therapeutic programs” and built proprietary genomic data sets for Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Investors nodded to those advances and Verge Genomics’ roster of diverse experts when they announced the windfall.

>> Read: Which Health-Tech Startups Are Making Money in 2018?

“The substantial increase in data volumes combined with the application of machine-learning tools has the potential to transform drug discovery and development,” said Emily Melton, a partner at DFJ, which led the funding round. “We were compelled by the high-caliber and multidisciplinary team at Verge Genomics and their vision to leverage the convergence of technological and neurobiological advances to discover new therapies for these complex diseases.”

The new funding brings the total investment in Verge Genomics to more than $36 million, according to the company.

The organization plans to use the money to further boost its “most promising drug candidates” and expand its data sets and therapeutic lineup, Verge Genomics CEO and co-founder Alice Zhang, MD, PhD, said in a statement.

She credited the company’s multipronged, tech-centric approach for its fundraising success.

“By vertically integrating machine learning and drug development capabilities under one roof, we have been able to quickly identify dozens of promising new therapeutic opportunities for devastating diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s disease,” Zhang said.

While DFJ led the Series A round, contributions also came from WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, the ALS Investment Fund, Agent Capital, and the OS Fund, according to the announcement. DFJ’s Melton joined Verge Genomics’ board of directors as a result of her firm’s investment.

“We wanted our investor syndicate to reflect the same interdisciplinary mindset and are excited to bring together top investors from both the biotech and technology sectors,” Zhang noted.

Verge’s staff includes experts from genomics labs and pharma, with 10 of the 14 employees holding doctorate degrees. They hail from various prestigious universities and have deep knowledge of machine learning, drug development, neuroscience, math, biophysics, and statistics, according to the company.

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