Verge Genomics announces a multi-institution collaboration with Columbia University, MGH, USC and the University of Michigan to advance ALS research

Justin Ichida (Photo by Cristy Lytal)
Justin Ichida (Photo by Cristy Lytal)

Verge Genomics, a drug discovery company utilizing genomic data for neuroscience therapeutics, announced today that it is has established a multi-institution industry-academic collaboration with four top universities focused on accelerating the translation of preclinical models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) through the creation of a comprehensive foundation of ALS data, encompassing genomic, biochemical, and phenotypic data. Collaborators include the Motor Neuron Center at Columbia University, Massachusetts General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and the Department of Neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) and genetically-modified rodent models have emerged as promising models to study neurodegenerative disease. However, the extent to which they model the complexity of ALS is not well understood. This innovative industry-academic collaboration represents a significant step in advancing the field’s understanding of ALS patient stem cell and rodent models to enable the translation of effective therapies into the clinic. Verge Genomics has built the largest collection of ALS patient genetic and gene expression data along with a proprietary systems biology platform. This will complement the state-of-the-art imaging technology and ALS patient iPSC models developed in top labs at USC, University of Michigan, and MGH. The collaboration aims to synthesize these complementary technologies by generating and integrating large-scale genomic, imaging, and biological datasets to bridge the gap between findings derived from patient disease progression and preclinical models of ALS.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects motor neurons in the brain and the spinal cord. These motor neurons weaken and eventually die, resulting in a loss of voluntary muscle action. The average life expectancy of a person diagnosed with ALS is two to five years. Currently, there is no treatment to halt the progression of the disease or to prevent it altogether.

“We’re excited to be collaborating with some of the top labs in the field of ALS who have been pioneers of iPSC-based and animal models of neurodegeneration,” said Alice Zhang, CEO of Verge. “By combining cutting edge academic research with our expertise in computational genomics, we can improve the understanding of ALS obtained from pre-clinical systems and ultimately pave the way to better drugs for the benefit of patients.”

“Working with Verge Genomics represents a way to accelerate findings derived from academic research. With one of the world’s largest ALS patient genomic database and novel findings from their proprietary platform, Verge is an excellent partner to form a better understanding of ALS, which ultimately will help us find more effective treatments for patients,” added Justin Ichida, assistant professor of stem cell biology and regenerative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Mentioned in this article: Justin Ichida, PhD