In partnership with UC San Diego and VIB, Verge Genomics is leading an industry-academic consortium that will be the first to sequence gene expression in Parkinson’s patient brains at single cell resolution.

Verge Genomics, a drug discovery company utilizing machine learning to develop new therapeutics, announced today the launch of a groundbreaking initiative to sequence gene expression 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 gene expression 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.

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