Vertex Partners Oxford Genome Analysis Firm To Develop New Personalized Therapies

Genomics partner Vertex big genomic data

Genomics, a company using machine learning to analyze genetic data, is partnering with precision medicine specialists Vertex Pharmaceuticals to develop new therapies in a 3-year collaboration.

The agreement marks the closing of the Oxford-based company’s €28M (£25M) series B fundraising round, as Vertex has also invested €11.7M (£10.5M) in Genomics. If the collaboration is successful it could be extended from 3 to 5 years.

Genomics started as a spin-out from the University of Oxford in 2014 and the company has developed a machine learning engine that can assess the potential success of a given therapy by analyzing human genomic data. The engine is the largest known example of its kind and can link DNA mutations at 14M positions in the human genome to 7000 molecular, physiological and disease-related outcomes.

“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,” said Peter Donnelly, Founder and CEO, Genomics.

Vertex is interested in exploiting this powerful analysis engine to search for new drug targets to allow it to develop new therapies, particularly at its Oxford office. Genomics will be eligible for milestone and royalty payments if new targets discovered during the collaboration that reach clinical development. 

The US biotech is behind the cystic fibrosis drug Kaldeco (ivacaftor). This therapy is the first treatment to target the underlying cause of the disease, namely, the defective ion channel that prevents an adequate flow of fluid between cells in people with the condition.

Vertex is also hoping to be one of the first to get a CRISPR derived therapy to the clinic, as part of its partnership with CRISPR Therapeutics. Their jointly developed drug candidate for sickle cell disease and β-thalassemia should be trialed in humans in the US and Europe later this year. That is, if the FDA’s temporary hold on the US sickle cell trial that was announced at the end of May is lifted.

Images via Shutterstock

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