Alexion, AstraZeneca Rare Disease has entered a multi-target partnership agreement with Verge Genomics to detect new drug targets for rare neurodegenerative and neuromuscular ailments leveraging artificial intelligence (AI).

As per the four-year deal, Alexion will make upfront, equity and near-term payments of up to $42m to Verge.

Verge is entitled to receive a total of $840m in milestone payments under the agreement, apart from potential downstream royalty payments.

Under the partnership, the parties will utilise the CONVERGE full-stack platform of Verge that merges predictive human tissue datasets with machine learning for identifying new targets with an increased clinical success potential.

Alexion will choose targets with greater potential for each indication and also holds an option for licensing and progressing successful targets to clinical developmental stages as well as commercialisation.

In conjunction with the drug discovery deal, AstraZeneca will hold an equity role in Verge Genomics.

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Alexion senior vice-president and research and product development head Seng Cheng said: “By leveraging Verge’s AI-enabled platform in combination with data from patient tissue samples, we see potential in helping researchers more efficiently identify and validate therapeutic targets for rare diseases.

“This collaboration will contribute to Alexion’s science-led innovation and may help accelerate our efforts to transform the discovery and development of new medicines for patients with rare diseases.”

In July 2023, Alexion signed a definitive agreement to acquire and license Pfizer’s early-stage gene therapy portfolio for rare diseases.