SAN FRANCISCO, May 21, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Verge Genomics, a drug discovery company utilizing machine learning to develop new therapeutics, announced today the launch of a groundbreaking initiative to sequence genes expressed in the brains of Parkinson's patients at a single cell resolution, generating the first dataset of its kind in the field. This effort will be the focus of a new consortium led by Verge and in partnership with the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) and VIB, the life sciences research institute, in Flanders, Belgium.
This public-private consortium will combine VIB's cutting-edge single-nucleus RNA sequencing technology, UC San Diego's outstanding collection of tissue generously provided by patients and their families, and Verge's machine learning platform to generate and analyze new types of patient data at a resolution only recently made possible. Growing evidence shows that neurodegenerative diseases result from multiple interacting cell types, each of which contributes to disease in a unique manner. Yet, no datasets currently exist that capture gene expression changes across individual cell types in disease patients and healthy controls for any disease. Verge, VIB, and UC San Diego will collaborate to sequence all genes expressed in individual cell nuclei of brain tissue from people with and without neurodegenerative diseases, beginning with Parkinson's disease. For the first time, this will allow researchers to assess how gene activity changes in the disease across multiple cell types, offering an unprecedented glimpse into disease progression.
"This collaboration continues an ongoing effort at Verge to invest heavily in the creation of new, high quality datasets designed explicitly with computational analysis in mind from the start," said Alice Zhang, CEO of Verge. "With UC San Diego and VIB, we combine deep expertise across multiple domains -- spanning neurobiology, single cell sequencing, and machine learning -- to generate not just more data, but importantly, the right types of data necessary for unlocking the next generation of breakthrough treatments."
"Single cell technology is advancing rapidly, opening up new opportunities for us to understand how the healthy brain functions and what goes wrong in disease," said Dr. Matthew Holt, group leader at the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Brain & Disease Research. "Our collaboration with Verge and UC San Diego places us at the forefront of this exciting field and will allow us to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying Parkinson's disease at an unprecedented level, which we hope will accelerate the development of effective treatments for this incurable disease."
"We are very excited about interacting with Verge on this new project using banked postmortem tissues from UC San Diego's Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (ADRC). I anticipate to greatly move the field of Parkinson's Disease therapeutics forward," said Dr. Robert Rissman, Professor of Neurosciences and Director of UC San Diego's ADRC Neuropathology Core.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder involving the malfunction and death of brain neurons. These neurons include those that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement and coordination. As Parkinson's progresses, the amount of dopamine produced in the brain decreases, resulting in loss of movement control. Nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson's disease. Currently, the only approved treatments address Parkinson's symptoms but do not prevent the disease nor halt its progression.
About Verge Genomics
Verge Genomics is a next-generation drug discovery company that is using human genomics to accelerate drug discovery. Founded by scientists from leading genomics labs and pharmaceutical veterans, the Verge team is 13 people including 11 Ph.D.s with expertise in machine learning, neuroscience, drug development, applied math, biophysics, and statistics from UCLA, Stanford, Oxford, and UCSF. For additional information, please visit our website at www.vergegenomics.com.
Basic research in life sciences is VIB's raison d'être. VIB is an independent research institute where some 1,500 top scientists from Belgium and abroad conduct pioneering basic research. As such, they are pushing the boundaries of what we know about molecular mechanisms and how they rule living organisms such as human beings, animals, plants and microorganisms. Based on a close partnership with five Flemish universities – Ghent University, KU Leuven, University of Antwerp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Hasselt University – and supported by a solid funding program, VIB unites the expertise of all its collaborators and research groups in a single institute. VIB's technology transfer activities translate research results into concrete benefits for society such as new diagnostics and therapies and agricultural innovations. These applications are often developed by young start-ups from VIB or through collaborations with other companies. This also leads to additional employment and bridges the gap between scientific research and entrepreneurship. VIB also engages actively in the public debate on biotechnology by developing and disseminating a wide range of science-based information. More info can be found on www.vib.be.
SOURCE Verge Genomics