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28 January, 2019 - 10:38 By Tony Quested

Horizon clinches gamechanging cell therapy alliance with US university

A collaboration between Cambridge-based gene editing world leader Horizon Discovery and Rutgers – the state university of New Jersey – promises to revolutionise the development of new cell therapies.

Horizon will partner with Rutgers to further develop the novel base editing platform from the laboratory of Dr Shengkan Jin, associate professor of pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

As part of the agreement, Horizon has made a non-material payment to Rutgers for an option to exclusively license the base editing technology for use in all therapeutic applications. 

As part of the collaboration, Horizon will also fund further research in base editing at Rutgers University while undertaking evaluation and proof of concept studies in Cambridge. The UK company’s share price began to gather momentum on the announcement of the deal.

Base editing is a novel technology platform for engineering DNA or genes in cells that has the potential to correct errors or mutations in the DNA by modifying genes using an enzyme. 

Compared to currently available gene editing methodologies such as CRISPR/Cas9, which creates ‘cuts’ in the gene that can lead to adverse or negative effects, this new technology allows for more accurate gene editing while reducing unintended genomic changes. 

The technology will have a significant impact in enabling cell therapies to be progressed through clinical development and towards commercialisation. 

Terry Pizzie, Horizon’s CEO, said: “Base editing is potentially transformative for all gene editing technologies with the potential to help target many diseases that to date have no treatment. 

“As a world leader in the field of gene editing and gene modulation, both in research and applied markets, we are very excited to partner with Dr Jin and Rutgers University. By extending our scientific and IP capabilities, Horizon will now be able to more fully support our pharma, biotech and academic partners to deliver better cell therapy solutions to patients. 

“As part of our five-year investment strategy, Horizon committed to investing in high value technologies that maintain our market leadership; base editing technology is a perfect example of that.”

Dr David Kimball, interim senior VP for Research and Economic Development at Rutgers University, added: “Gene editing technology has truly revolutionised how scientists think about their search for better options and outcomes in the treatment of disease. 

“We look forward to advancing the shared goals of further developing this novel base editing platform and improving human health through this collaboration with Horizon.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Horizon Discovery CEO. Terry Pizzie

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