2020-10-21| Technology

Genentech Looks to Strengthen Drug Discovery by Collaborating With This Stanford Spinout

by Ruchi Jhonsa
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By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.

On 19th October, Genentech, a member of the Roche group, entered a collaboration with an AI-based company on the west coast for leveraging the latter’s neural network platform, Potential Net, to identify innovative drug candidates for therapeutic targets in multiple disease areas. This deal comes just weeks after Genentech entered a multiyear partnership with Imbio to develop AI-powered imaging diagnostics for lung diseases.

For the Genesis deal, Genentech will be making an undisclosed upfront payment, and Genesis will remain eligible to receive other payments, including milestone payments for pre-clinical, clinical, and regulatory achievements and royalties on Genentech’s sales of approved drugs resulting from the collaboration.


Potential Net AI Platform

San Francisco-based Genesis Therapeutics’ foundation is based on the Ph.D. work of Evan Feinberg at Stanford, where he developed PotentialNet, a state of the art AI technology platform, to predict the properties of molecules. The platform is currently the most advanced neural network algorithm, which could improve ADME prediction-absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drug molecules-by 65% when combined with biophysical simulations.

Simply put, with the platform, big pharma’s can test a large number of drugs for their potency, selectivity, pharmacokinetics, and toxicity at a click of the mouse. Genesis received a seed funding of $4.1 million last year to discover and develop innovative small drug molecules to treat patients with severe and debilitating disorders.

“This partnership with Genentech enables us to leverage our AI technology platform with Genentech’s unmatched capabilities in molecular innovation and structural biology. We look forward to executing rapidly on this opportunity, which has the potential to change the standard of treatment for patients,” said Evan Feinberg, Ph.D., Genesis co-founder, and CEO.

James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head of Roche Pharma Partnering, stated, “AI can help unlock the next generation of innovative therapies for patients in need of additional options. We are excited to work with Genesis’ team to discover medicines currently out of reach using conventional methods.”


Roche’s Focus on AI-Based Companies

Genentech’s parent company, Roche, has been actively chasing AI-based companies to improve the overall process of drug development and disrupt the slow process, costly process of discovering and developing new medicines. It entered a collaboration with GNS healthcare to understand how patients react to certain drugs and how that knowledge can be used to develop precision medicines. GNS collects data from various clinical trials, including genomic and molecular data, and transforms it into computation models that can show new pathways, diagnostic markers, or new targets for every individual. Roche, for one, has always believed that partners that gather, combine, and standardize data using AI and machine learning algorithms will enhance how the company can discover, develop and bring medicines to patients in a much-targeted fashion.

For diving into AI space, one needs to have high-quality data for success. This is not a problem for a company like Roche that possesses various clinical lab measurements, clinical trial data, and real-world information in abundance. Using this data, last year, Roche and Genentech developed what is being called the first “deep learning model” that can predict which patients with diabetic retinopathy will progress the fastest. They developed an algorithm that can scan various retina images obtained during a doctor’s visit and determine the rate of progression in diabetic retinopathy.

This is just the beginning of what Roche can do with the humongous data it possesses. In the near future, the company plans to embark on “preventive analysis and treatment, monitoring a patient before they are ill or acute, and identifying when they need earlier intervention,” said Michele Pedrocchi, Head of Global Strategy and Business Development for Roche Diagnostics.

Editor: Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.

Related Article: Insilico Medicine, Taisho Partnership Sets Precedent in Drug Discovery and Development



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