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9 May, 2017 - 07:28 By Tony Quested

Horizon set for $multimillion immuno-oncology boom

Horizon Discovery Cambridge

Cambridge’s gene editing world leader Horizon Discovery has laid the foundations for a stratospheric rise in revenues from its transformational immuno-oncology platform.

The UK business has already notched £1.5 million of sales for the technology in the embryonic financial year and reports a bulging order book for the rest of 2017 and beyond.

2017 proceeds from this source to date have already outstripped by 40 per cent like-for-like sales for the whole of 2016.

Faced with soaring global demand for the platform, Horizon is now extending the scope and power of its product suite in a field regarded as key to finding novel therapies to beat cancer.

Immuno-oncology has rapidly become one of the most promising approaches to cancer treatment and the market is estimated to be worth £25 billion per year – £50 bn per year by 2020).

Cancer cells utilise a variety of methods to stop the immune system from recognising and attacking them, preventing their elimination. Immuno-oncology therapies aim to re-activate the immune system, restoring its ability to respond to cancer cells and destroy them.

Horizon CEO Dr Darrin Disley said: “Gene editing is transforming the field of immuno-oncology and Horizon is at the forefront with its novel target identification, precision validation, high-throughput combination screening and ability to develop proprietary small molecule, large-molecule and cell therapies for our clients or within our internal R & D programmes.

“With strong market dynamics and with most large pharmaceutical companies actively pursuing programmes in this area we anticipate immuno-oncology to be a significant source of growth for the business in the coming years.”

Horizon’s progress in the arena is great news for shareholders. Platform technologies based around alternative immuno-oncology approaches have secured high valuations once early positive results in clinical trials have been achieved. Amgen’s 2012 acquisition of Micromet valued Micromet at $1.16bn and in 2013 Spirogen was acquired by AstraZeneca for up to $440m.

Horizon says that with a strong order book in place, including increasing orders for immunology-related target identification, validation and diagnostic reference standards, the platform is set to provide significant growth and contribution towards the group’s full year 2017 performance, for which it reiterates guidance of £30m-£35m. 

Horizon has built a ground-breaking platform for immuno-oncology therapeutic discovery to support the large and increasing number of customers actively pursuing programmes in this area.

The offering includes gene editing of immune cells, immune cell assays and screening, cell therapy research and development services and the supply of reference standards for immunology-based companion diagnostics. 

Horizon is currently working to broaden this platform by expanding the focus of its cutting-edge pooled CRISPR-screening platform to include immune cells, a technically challenging area in which Horizon is a world leader. 

It is anticipated that this approach will drive significant value creation by supporting the identification of new therapeutic targets and by providing insights into how cancer is naturally fought in the body and how T-cells, NK-cells and other immune cells could best be used for therapy. This platform has recently been used to identify several exciting new gene targets for cancer-cell directed therapies, which are currently undergoing validation.

Horizon will explore a variety of routes to capture upside potential in this area including forging discovery partnerships with Pharma & Biotech, out-licensing of internally identified targets and potentially spinning off target related IP into a new venture that would pursue drug and antibody discovery in its own right.

Horizon is also active in the development of immunotherapies through Avvinity, a Joint Venture with Centauri Therapeutics formed in March 2016, which is deploying a powerful and proprietary platform to discover and develop novel immuno-oncology therapeutics (alphamer-derived DNA Aptamers or antibodies) for cancers of significant unmet medical need. 

Avvinity is progressing three novel target programmes with Horizon owning 30 per cent of the equity with the option to increase this to 49.99 per cent based on its previously announced funding commitment of £5.3m.

This investment would take the company through to a significant Series B funding round with third-party investors in 2018-19.

Kiss Communications

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