Roche's James Sabry inks his second AI deal in back-to-back pacts — this time partnering Genentech with Stanford spinout Genesis Therapeutics
Less than a week after Roche joined forces with Dyno Therapeutics to develop gene therapies using artificial intelligence, its giant subsidiary Genentech is hopping on the AI bandwagon with a different player.
Genentech has inked a deal with Stanford spinout Genesis Therapeutics to harness its AI power for drug development and discovery. Genesis is getting an upfront payment and milestones, but the companies are keeping the details under wraps for now. The Burlingame, CA-based biotech also stands to earn future royalties on any approved Genentech drugs that come from the deal.
Using AI technology, Genesis is able to make “ultra-fast and accurate predictions” of a compound’s potency, selectivity, toxicity and more, CEO Evan Feinberg told Endpoints News. “That helps us get them prepared for clinical trials more quickly, and with a more optimal compound,” he said.
“We are screening anywhere from millions to billions of compounds in silico at each stage, from hit identification through hit-to-lead, lead optimization and candidate selection,” he added later.
The biotech was formed out of Stanford University’s Pande Lab in 2019, where Feinberg co-invented PotentialNet — a neural network designed to predict protein−ligand binding and molecular properties. The company is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, and touts Amira Pharmaceuticals’ founder and longtime Versant advisor Peppi Prasit as its acting CSO, with Alexion founder Leonard Bell along for the ride as chairman of the board.
Genesis seeks to use AI to develop candidates with “superior selectivity,” thus limiting side effects, which Feinberg said “is what this is all about.” The CEO said he’s had four significant leg surgeries in the last 10 years, one of which left a peripheral nerve permanently damaged.
“I’ve had first-hand experience with most or many neuromuscular, musculoskeletal-related drugs that have really bad side effects. So I… feel very personally committed to creating a pharmacopoeia that has better quality of life for patients,” he said.
The deal arrives right on the heels of Aviv Regev’s arrival as the new head of research at gRED. Regev has been a star at the Broad, working in her highly specialized field of computational biology. And she’s expected to play a big role at Genentech adding to their strengths in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
In its collaboration with Dyno, Roche’s Spark team will work on improving AAV vectors. Dyno designs, tests and validates the vectors, while partners add their payloads and work on new development programs. James Sabry, global head of Roche Pharma Partnering, said the deal will “bring us added ability to go to AAV 2.0.” AI and machine learning, he added, are “no longer things of the future when it comes to drug discovery.”
“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,” Sabry said in a statement.