Roche Group subsidiary Genentech has tapped a startup drug-discovery firm to find potential drug candidates for a variety of diseases.

The deal with Genesis Therapeutics includes an upfront payment and a series of milestone payments as well as a share of royalties from any drugs sold by Genentech resulting from the collaboration.

It is the first such partnership for Genesis Therapeutics but not the last, according to its CEO, Evan Feinberg, who declined to disclose the financial terms.

“While we have not defined a specific timeframe for the partnership, we anticipate the work on each selected target to last several years,” Feinberg said in an emailed response to questions forwarded by a spokesperson.

Genentech will select the disease targets, Feinberg said.

“We are excited to work with Genesis’ team to discover medicines currently out of reach using conventional methods,” Dr. James Sabry, global head of Roche Pharma Partnering, said in a statement.

Genesis Therapeutics formed last year to commercialize Feinberg’s research into AI at Stanford University’s Pande Lab, which develops open-source software to push the limits of molecular simulation. The lab is headed by Vijay S. Pande, a computing pioneer and a general partner at venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. Feinberg is co-inventor of an algorithm called PotentialNet that can predict molecular properties.

Based in Burlingame, California, Genesis has continued to hone its AI and develop new algorithms to help find drug-like molecules. The company raised $4.1 million in seed funding last year from Andreessen Horowitz and other investors. 

“We tackle previously undrugged targets as well as develop best-in-class candidates for well-characterized targets,” Feinberg said. “Future partnerships will also focus on design of first-in-class and/or best-in-class drug candidates, but for different drug targets, for either similar or different disease areas.”

Partnerships with drug companies can be lucrative for drug-discovery firms, which have proliferated in recent years. About 230 startups are now using artificial intelligence in the field of drug discovery, according to one count.

Dyno Therapeutics last week announced a deal with Basel, Switzerland-based Roche and its subsidiary Spark Therapeutics Inc. that could be worth more than $1.8 billion.

Founded in late 2018 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dyno applies AI in the area of gene therapies. The partnership with Roche and Spark covers diseases of the liver and central nervous system.

Dyno also is partnering with Novartis on ocular diseases and with Sarepta Therapeutics Inc. on muscle diseases. No payment details were provided for the Novartis collaboration. But under the deal with Sarepta, Dyno could earn more than $40 million, according to a press release.

Photo: mediaphotos, Getty Images

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