Thursday, May 3, 2018

Very Brief Blog: Gilead to Invest $90M in Verily's "Immunoscape" Immuno Cellular Profiling

Update:  On May 14, Google Ventures (GV) and Third Rock fund a Broad Institute spinout, CELSIUS, for $65M to do similar work on sophisticated molecular map analysis of immune system for disease definition & drug development.  John Carroll's Endpoints article here.  

Providing contract research to pharma is a big industry, and includes not only clinical trials but also R&D.   Gilead, planning to move further into drugs for inflammatory diseases, announced it is investing $90M in research at Verily.   The platform will be Verily's "Immunoscape" - a name that was trademarked only last December.  Here's what it does:  "The Immunoscape platform represents the next-generation of tools to understand the immune system, harnessing the latest in genomic and immunologic laboratory technologies and leveraging Verily’s ability to curate and analyze health data at scale."

For comparison, based on their latest investor call, Foundation Medicine's annual pharma revenue is the the neighborhood of $100M.

The fact this big molecular science deal lands at Verily - part of Google Alphabet - rather than a traditional life science lab or in an offshoot from academia is telling.  Possibly the actual data - for example, high sensitivity flow cytometry and RNA expression - is relatively straightforward today and the secret is in the resulting big data or machine learning analysis.   If so, put this one in the category of the impact of digital health modalities on genomics.  (See my December 2017 article).  For another perspective, $90M would swamp the budgets of academic labs looking at immune profiling and expression across several autoimmune diseases.

Read more at Genetic Engineering News and at Forbes.   Head of the lab project is Charlie Kim PhD, who moved to Verily from his position as assistant professor at UCSF (Linked In here).  (To use the perspective theme once again, imagine booking a $90M grant as a beginning assistant professor.)

Currently, the home page for Verily Projects lists four broad investment and research categories - sensors, interventions, health platforms and population health, and precision medicine.   Each category has 3-6 projects, of which Immunoscape is one project out of 6 in the precision medicine category.


Verily and Gilead are located in close proximity to each other on the SF peninsula.