Horizon wins new $100M AstraZeneca Deal

Cambridge UK medical technology business Horizon Discovery stands to reap more than $100 million from a fresh deal with pharma giant AstraZeneca.

The companies have today announced a collaboration to explore a range of oncology-relevant genotypes with the aim of identifying and validating a number of novel drug targets. The deal is the second collaboration between AstraZeneca and Horizon, and follows the announcement in April 2013 of an oncology discovery program to explore Horizon’s first-in-class kinase target program, HD-001.

As reported in Business Weekly, the HD-001 program recently won the SCRIP Award for ‘Licensing Deal of the Year’ for 2013.

Horizon will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and is eligible for subsequent payments of up to $88 million in milestones if compounds are developed by AstraZeneca against an undisclosed number of targets identified through the research collaboration. A successful collaboration could net the Cambridge personalised medicines pioneer more than $100m – bringing its haul from deals with AZ to more than $200m.

The strengthening relationship between the companies makes even more sense now as Horizon is expanding its in-house research & development facilities at Cambridge Research Park while AZ is taking temporary space in the technology cluster ahead of moving 2,000 staff to Cambridge at a new corporate HQ and R & D hothouse. Under the deal a defined set of genotypes will be queried by Horizon for synthetic lethality – this occurs where the combination of mutations in two or more genes leads to cell death, but a mutation in just one of those genes does not.

Synthetic lethal screens have demonstrated great potential in oncology as these pairs of mutations could be used to selectively kill cancer cells, but leave normal cells relatively unharmed.

Horizon will carry out in vitro screening activities using its proprietary siRNA Platform. RNAi hits resulting from this first stage will then be validated by Horizon, through techniques including pathway analysis, confirmation of activity in endogenously mutant vs. wild type cell lines (X-MAN™), functional assays, or gene knock-in/knockout assays. AstraZeneca may exercise exclusivity over any validated targets.

Horizon CEO, Dr Darrin Disley said: “Horizon is uniquely placed in the translational genomics field for investigation of synthetic lethality, as our X-MAN isogenic disease models incorporate patient-relevant genetic context, and allow large scale, timely and systematic screens for the first time. Combined with our high-throughput RNAi and bioinformatics technology platforms, we have a powerful offering.”

Susan Galbraith, head of the oncology innovative medicines unit at AstraZeneca, added: “AstraZeneca’s strategy of collaborating with innovative organisations like Horizon allows us to broaden our oncology research efforts and complement our own internal capabilities.

“Partnering Horizon’s excellent capabilities in synthetic lethal screens and validation with our strong oncology discovery and development expertise offers real potential to address the need for novel cancer therapeutics, and ultimately to make a difference to patients.”

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