Eli Lilly has entered a three-year partnership with biotech company Verge Genomics to research and create new drugs for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a motor neuron disease.

Verge developed an all-in-human, artificial-intelligence (AI)-driven drug discovery and development platform to develop treatments for serious genetic diseases.

Based on patient brain transcriptomes across various neurodegenerative diseases, the platform offers insights into new causal disease mechanisms in genetically categorised patients to enable the discovery of therapeutic targets.

The partnership will use Verge’s all-in-human platform to discover and establish new targets for ALS. Lilly will choose up to four targets detected by Verge and will advance them into clinical trials and markets.

Eli Lilly Neurodegeneration Research vice-president Michael Hutton said: “Verge Genomics is advancing an innovative approach to identifying high-potential drug targets that are validated through artificial intelligence algorithms and a large library of human data.

“This approach complements and enhances Lilly’s neuroscience portfolio and will help facilitate the development of what we hope will be transformative new therapies for people with ALS.”

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As per the deal, Verge will get up to $25m as upfront, equity investment and potential near-term payments, followed by milestone payments of $694m and royalties.

In May, Lilly and MiNA Therapeutics entered a global research partnership to develop new drug candidates using the latter’s small activating RNA technology platform.

In another development, AstraZeneca has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with F-star Therapeutics to obtain worldwide rights to research, develop and market next-generation Stimulator of Interferon Genes (STING) inhibitor compounds.

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca will obtain access to F-star’s new preclinical STING inhibitors and will handle further research, development and marketing of these compounds.

F-star will retain rights to all STING agonists, which are being developed for cancer treatment.

AstraZeneca will pay up to $12m as upfront and near-term payments to F-star.

Furthermore, F-star is eligible to get more than $300m in development and sales milestone payments, in addition to single-digit percentage royalty payments.