Venture Capital

Eli Lilly, Merck Invest in Verge Genomics

SAN FRANCISCO — Verge Genomics, a drug discovery company that is using artificial intelligence (AI) and human data to develop new drugs, has closed an oversubscribed $98 million equity financing. The Series B financing was led by funds managed by BlackRock and includes new healthcare and technology investors Eli Lilly and Company, Merck Global Health Innovation Fund (Merck GHI), Section 32, and Vulcan Capital, alongside Verge’s existing investors, including Threshold Ventures, ALS Investment Fund, Tao Capital Partners, Lifeforce Capital, and others.

“We are thrilled that multiple stakeholders in our space, from leading pharmaceutical companies to healthcare and technology investors, recognize the potential of our human-centric AI platform to transform drug discovery for the most challenging diseases of our generation,” said Alice Zhang, co-founder and CEO of Verge Genomics. “Our platform has demonstrated its ability to identify novel targets from human datasets for these diseases and rapidly develop them into proprietary clinical candidates. With our Series B completed, the quality and breadth of our shareholder base allows us to validate our platform in the clinic. The addition of new clinical datasets has the potential to dramatically improve our self-reinforcing learning platform and accelerate us towards our mission of developing better drugs, faster.”

Verge has built an end-to-end, AI-driven drug discovery platform that includes one of the field’s largest proprietary genomic datasets from human brain tissue. Since its Series A in 2018, Verge has become one of the first AI-enabled drug discovery companies to discover a novel target and develop it internally into a proprietary clinical candidate entirely using its platform. In July 2021, the company announced a $706 million partnership with Lilly to develop new treatments for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using its platform. Funding from the Series B will be used to exponentially grow the number of preclinical and clinical programs in Verge’s pipeline and advance its lead programs through clinical testing. Additionally, Verge will continue to expand its proprietary technology to enable improvements in many steps of the drug discovery process including translational medicine and clinical development.

“Exponential improvements in technology are converging to create an inflection point in drug development,” said William Abecassis, BlackRock’s Head of Innovation Capital. “Verge has uniquely positioned itself to harness this opportunity, having developed both a world-class AI discovery platform and the most comprehensive neurodegenerative genomic database of human patients in the world. Together with their team of prominent leaders in neuroscience, we are excited to be supporting them in shaping the next era of technology-enabled drug development.”

David M. Rubin, PhD., Managing Director of Merck GHI added: “Identifying better targets is one of the critical challenges faced in drug discovery today. The speed with which Verge advanced their lead program underscores the platform’s potential to develop new candidates with greater efficiency. We are pleased to be joining this financing alongside experts from pharma, healthcare and technology who share the belief that Verge’s platform has the potential to deliver life-changing medicines to patients.”