Launching out of Y Combinator, Verge Genomics is looking to find cures for brain diseases. Alzheimers, ALS, and Parkinsons are complex diseases that usually involve a network of genes, as opposed to a single gene.
According to the company, over 99.9 percent of drug discoveries ultimately fail because researchers are looking at a single gene at a time. But Verge Genomics is able to cure brain diseases 1000x more quickly than big pharma by using algorithms to map out the human genome and understand hundreds of genes at once.
The company then takes public information about which genes are affected by already-FDA-approved drugs that may have expired patents and go into testing once the matching process is already complete. By comparison, big pharma goes straight into blind testing on drugs based on single genes, usually spending around $2 billion and 12 years to get a single new drug to market.
“I like to use a basketball analogy,” said co-founder Jason Chen. “Big pharma is taking the approach of covering the best player on the court, whereas we approach the game by spreading out our defense and covering the whole team, man-to-man.”
The plan is to partner with pharmaceutical companies to accelerate what is now an antiquated process of blind testing of single genes. Using the Verge Genomics technology, these companies will be able to locate entire gene networks causing neurodegenerative diseases, as well as using existing approved drugs (which may have expired patents) to treat these diseases while saving time and money.
Verge already has a partnership in place with a large pharmaceutical company, though isn’t at liberty to discuss which one. In the future, Verge hopes to not only partner with these companies but patent the drugs the company discovers and sell the rights to those pharmaceutical giants.
“The biggest challenge is making connections to these big pharma players and negotiating with them,” said co-founder Alice Zhang. “We believe that we have the science down and we believe in these drugs we’re discovering, so hopefully we’ll find companies who are willing to buy these drugs and eventually bring on advisors to help with those connections.”
You can learn more about Verge Genomics here.