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Empirico Inks Drug Target Discovery Alliance With Antisense Drug Firm Ionis

NEW YORK — Empirico said on Thursday that it has formed a drug discovery alliance with antisense therapeutics firm Ionis Pharmaceuticals.

As part of the deal, Ionis has taken a $10 million stake in Empirico, which also announced the close of a $17 million Series A-2 financing round.

Under the terms of the deal, San Diego-based Empirico will use its Precision Insights Platform — which uses biological data sets, human genetics, and computer algorithms for drug target discovery — to identify targets amenable to Ionis' technology.

Ionis can advance up to 10 targets identified by Empirico and will assume responsibility for all preclinical and clinical development. The companies will also work together to incorporate human genetics into existing Ionis programs including work on target validation, indication and biomarker selection, and patient stratification.

In addition to Ionis' 10 million equity investment, Empirico also stands to receive up to $30 million in operational and preclinical milestones. Empirico is also eligible for more than $620 million in clinical, regulatory, and commercials milestones and royalties from Ionis.

Ionis also led the new financing round, which included participating from  DCVC Bio and Neotribe Ventures. Empirico said it raised $12.5 million in Series A funding in late 2018. 

"Empirico’s approach to human genetics provides a much-needed opportunity to improve the success rate of drug discovery and development by leveraging experiments of nature," Empirico CEO Omri Gottesman said in a statement. "Antisense oligonucleotides are an ideal translational partner for human genetics-focused target discovery, allowing us to precisely mimic or interfere with the mechanisms by which functional genetic variants influence health and disease."