Deep Genomics hits the partnering ground running with BioMarin deal

Deep Genomics is wasting no time. Two weeks after hiring a new chief business officer to ramp up its partnering game, it’s unveiling its first biopharma tie-up: BioMarin. The duo will use the Toronto biotech’s artificial-intelligence-based drug discovery platform to discover new drugs for rare diseases.

Deep Genomics will identify oligonucleotide drugs—short pieces of DNA or RNA—in four rare disease indications. Once it has validated its lead prospects, BioMarin may move them into preclinical and clinical development.

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The partners are keeping financial details under wraps, but Deep Genomics will receive an upfront payment and near-term milestone payments that are comparable to those in deals struck by other AI players such as insitro and Recursion Pharmaceuticals, CEO Brendan Frey, Ph.D., said.

Insitro struck a three-year deal with Gilead Sciences in April of last year to discover and develop new treatments for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. It was worth $15 million upfront but could ultimately total more than $1 billion. And this past September, Recursion teamed up with Bayer to identify and develop new treatments for fibrotic diseases. Bayer could bring up to 10 programs forward, forking over more than $100 million for each. That deal included an upfront fee of $30 million, as well as a $50 million investment from the German drugmaker’s venture arm into Recursion’s $239 million series D round.

“Also, for each program BioMarin opts to take forward into clinical development, Deep Genomics will receive additional downstream economics that will have a substantial impact on our growth,” Frey added.

Deep Genomics’ work is based on its AI WorkBench, a platform made up of about 30 different machine learning systems, combining deep learning, automation, advanced biomedical knowledge and huge amounts of in vitro and in vivo data, the company said in a statement. Like a carpenter’s workbench, its tools can be mixed and matched to achieve different tasks, Frey said in a previous interview.

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The company started looking for partners because it was turning up more targets and potential drugs than it could pursue on its own. It previously disclosed a program in Wilson's disease—a rare and potentially fatal genetic disorder that affects copper metabolism—and has since added programs in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.

"Signing this deal is an important proof point for Deep Genomics and for the AI therapeutics community more broadly,” Frey said. “While many AI therapeutics deals aim to find candidates in several years, our AI capabilities have given us line of sight to success. I would be surprised if we have not identified leads for half of the programs within one year."