The hope is that if researchers use the most precise models available, they can accelerate the preclinical-trial development of potential therapies. Among other things, the models will help researchers screen for new compounds and validate targets for their drugs.
To help identify the models, the partners will create the world’s largest and most comprehensive repository of Parkinson’s data. It will include genetic, biochemical, and other data from a large sampling of patients.
In addition to Verge, the partners are the Dresden University of Technology’s Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden, the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute.
The initiative will build on Verge’s collection of genetic and other data from Parkinson’s patients — one of the largest ever created.
The new, bigger repository should deepen scientists’ understanding of how preclinical-trial models of Parkinson’s can help predict the way the disease unfolds. In addition, researchers will be able to use the information to look for promising therapies.
“These collaborations will allow us to identify key preclinical models to use in our drug development program for Parkinson’s,” Alice Zhang, Verge’s chief executive officer, said in a press release. “Instead of relying on characteristics that may have a dubious relationship to the actual disease process, we will identify the systems that best model the molecular aspects of disease predicted by our systems biology platform.
“By combining cutting-edge academic research with our expertise in computational genomics, we can improve the understanding of Parkinson’s obtained from preclinical systems and more quickly get to better drugs for the benefit of patients,” she added.
“We are excited about the potential of Verge’s novel technology for our analysis of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived dopamine neurons to be used for autologous cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Jeanne Loring of the Scripps Research Institute. Cell replacement therapy involves replacing dying nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain with healthy nerve cells.
Verge is also leading an ALS research consortium that includes scientists from the University of Michigan, the University of Southern California, Columbia University, and the Massachusetts General Hospital.