Gilead Sciences will partner with Google parent Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences over the next three years to study immunological and molecular drivers of three inflammatory diseases, the companies said.

The value of the collaboration was not announced, though Forbes reported that Gilead had agreed to pay Verily up to $90 million over the three-year period.

The companies said they will carry out the first large-scale deployment of Verily’s Immunoscape platform to identify and better understand the immunological basis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and lupus-related diseases—insights that Gilead expects will guide future drug discovery and development efforts.

Gilead’s most advanced drug pipeline candidate in those indications is filgotinib, a JAK1-selective inhibitor that the company acquired from Galapagos in 2015 in an up-to-$2 billion licensing and development deal. Filgotinib is in Phase III trials in RA, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, and in Phase II studies in inflammatory diseases. AbbVie was previously Galapagos’ partner in developing filgotinib—envisioned by Gilead as a competitor to AbbVie’s multi-indication blockbuster Humira® (adalimumab), which generated $18.427 billion in 2017 sales, ranking first in GEN’s list of The Top Best-Selling Drugs of 2017.

Immunoscape combines immunogenomic phenotyping and advanced computational analysis techniques designed to profile the molecular characteristics of inflammatory diseases at high resolution.

Through the collaboration, the companies said, Gilead will provide clinical data and thousands of immune cell samples from participants before, during, and after administration of novel drugs in the company’s ongoing Phase II and Phase III clinical studies.

“With the Immunoscape platform, we are seeking to develop a molecular map of inflammatory diseases that will help us identify and characterize disease mechanisms,” Verily CMO Jessica Mega, M.D., said yesterday in a statement. “This collaboration with Gilead is an incredible opportunity to learn much more about these immune-mediated conditions than ever before, and to hone in on potential paths to deliver more precise medicine to patients.”

Seeking Molecular Signatures

Verily and Gilead added that they will study the activity of specific subtypes of immune cells, with the goal of identifying molecular signatures that can help physicians select a therapy or dosing that is tailored to a specific subgroup of patients, which the companies reason could improve treatment results and avoid side effects.

The collaboration is also intended to generate data that enables better characterization of subtypes of inflammatory diseases. All data and samples will be coded to protect patient privacy, and findings generated through the analysis will include patient data only in aggregate, Gilead and Verily insisted.

“Inflammatory diseases are complex and heterogeneous, and despite treatment advances, most patients experience neither deep nor long-lasting remissions,” added John McHutchison, M.D., Gilead’s CSO, head of R&D. “We are excited to be collaborating with the scientists at Verily to accelerate our understanding of these common and serious inflammatory diseases. We hope to ultimately improve patient outcomes using this cutting-edge technology to identify molecular disease pathways that would otherwise remain undetected.”

Dr. McHutchinson told Forbes that Verily’s Immunoscape platform will enable Gilead to separate white blood cells in RA, IBD, and lupus-related diseases into two-dozen different subtypes, then generate data on the RNA expression profiles of each. The result, he said, would be a terabyte’s worth of data for every patient tested.

According to Verily’s trademark for Immunoscape, filed December 22, 2017, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the platform includes:

  • “Diagnostic assay preparations for scientific and research purposes,” including assays and reagents for use in immunology research;
  • “Medical diagnostic reagents and assays,” specifically immunoassays and functional assays for immunology profiling;
  • “Medical and scientific research consultation and R&D services in the fields of immunology and life science,” as well as medical and scientific laboratory services.

Gilead is set to report first-quarter earnings this afternoon, after the close of the NASDAQ market on which its shares trade.

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