Genentech taps Stanford University spinout for AI drug discovery partnership

Genentech has tapped an artificial intelligence startup spun out of Stanford University late last year to help it discover new drugs across multiple therapeutic targets.

Genesis Therapeutics develops neural networks that aim to predict how well potential molecules bind with moving protein chains—examining their possible interactions as a flexible system that allows the company’s algorithms to more easily explore previously undruggable or hard-to-reach targets.

The startup first launched in November 2019 out of Stanford’s Pande Lab, which studies machine learning and simulation applications in chemistry, biology and medicine, and began life with $4.1 million in seed money from Andreessen Horowitz and Felicis Ventures.

The company also counts Leonard Bell, M.D., former CEO of Alexion Pharmaceuticals, as chair of its board of directors, plus Peppi Prasit, Ph.D., co-founder of Inception Sciences and Amira Pharmaceuticals, as its acting chief scientific officer and head of its scientific advisory board.

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“We chose Genesis as our bet in this nascent space because of our firm‘s conviction in the team’s rigorous science, continued innovation, and incredible track record of its leadership and founding board,” said Vijay Pande, Ph.D., who serves as an adjunct professor of bioengineering at Stanford and the lab’s principal investigator as well as a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, at the company’s launch last year. “The initial team has also expanded to include a team of proven drug developers.”

“Between their internal programs and being poised as a unique partner for biopharma companies looking to optimize the outcomes of their pipeline, we are excited to see the impact Genesis will have in patient care over the coming decades," added Pande, who is also the founding investor of Andreessen Horowitz’s Bio Fund.

Under its new collaboration with Roche’s Genentech division, Genesis will receive an upfront payment of an undisclosed amount and will be eligible for future milestone payments tied to any potential compounds’ development.