Google Heading to a Promising but Potentially Risky Avenue
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Google parent company Alphabet ($GOOG, $GOOGL) is plunging into a field totally unrelated to the areas it has dealt with - gene editing. It’s probably an indication to investors that it isn’t afraid of taking on some adventure. Google’s Verily life science venture is teaming up with Verve Therapeutics, the gene-editing startup for developing a groundbreaking drug. Analyst Cory Renauer reckons drug development is quite a risky proposition. And Google’s plans are ambitious to say the least, but if it succeeds it could strike gold since it is planning to develop a preventive gene therapy for one of the leading death causes in the United States.
Google and Gene Therapy?
GV, the venture fund of Google, has combined with three funds for raising $58.5 million for Verve Therapeutics in terms of Series A funding. Now biopharmaceutical companies usually point their aim at rare life-threatening diseases when they’re developing gene therapies. That’s because manufacturing gene therapies is difficult, and administering them is dangerous. Verve, however, is focusing on a very common but life-threatening condition – heart disease. The gene therapy drug it is seeking to develop will lower the levels of bad cholesterol for the rest of the individual’s life following just a one-time administration.
That sounds so groundbreaking and promising that it seems Google could be getting heaps of earnings and goodwill if this succeeds. But getting to administer such a drug is easier said than done. In fact, it seems nearly impossible because of the challenges involved. The main challenge, as Renauer points out, is that healthy patients can’t be easily made to accept gene therapy treatment just to prevent heart attacks in the future. And it’s next to impossible to get insurance providers to pay for it. Most gene therapies now make use of non-replicating viruses for getting their potency delivered to the body. Renauer opines that this is method is risky.
Nanoparticles to the Rescue
Google though has a unique technology to rely on. Verily, its life science subsidiary, started research into nanoparticle many years back. It now claims to have the first ever nanoparticle vehicle developed for delivering gene therapy into specific liver cells. So that takes care of drug administration conundrum. But the method has not been tested yet. So the question remains, how practical will this be?
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