Gilead Sciences has partnered with insitro, a data-driven drug discovery startup, to leverage an artificial intelligence (AI)-based platform for the discovery and development of new drugs to treat nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

The three-year alliance will use the insitro Human (ISH) platform to build disease models and identify targets with impact on clinical progression and regression of NASH.

ISH combines machine learning with human genetics and functional genomics to create and optimise in vitro models for improved drug discovery and development.

Gilead noted that the platform will enable better understanding of disease progression, propose candidate targets, and predict responses to potential therapeutic candidates. The company may advance up to five targets and will develop drugs accordingly.

Gilead Sciences chief scientific officer and Research and Development head John McHutchison said: “Through this collaboration we will utilise deep learning to explore the scientific underpinnings of the biology and clinical spectrum of NASH, with the goal of accelerating the development of highly effective treatment options for patients with this disease.”

“NASH is a progressive liver disease that can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer and will soon be the predominant cause of liver transplantation in the US.”

As part of the deal, Gilead will make an upfront payment of $15m, along with up to $35m in near-term payments based on operational milestones.

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In addition, insitro will be eligible for up to $200m in preclinical, development, regulatory and commercial milestones for each of the five targets advanced by Gilead as part of this alliance.

insitro will also get double-digit tiered royalties on net sales. If the company decides to opt for any programme, it can co-develop and co-detail in the US, receive a profit share in China as well as e milestone payments and royalties on sales in other markets outside the US.

insitro CEO and founder Daphne Koller said: “NASH is a progressive liver disease that can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and liver cancer and will soon be the predominant cause of liver transplantation in the US.

“We are excited to work with Gilead, a leader in liver disease, in bringing to bear novel tools toward identifying new therapeutics for NASH and helping the many patients in need around the world.”

Recently, Gilead formed a clinical collaboration with Novo Nordisk to assess a combination of compounds from their respective pipelines for the treatment of NASH patients.