Cambridge, UK, 9 May 2017: Horizon Discovery Group plc (LSE: HZD) ("Horizon"), the world leader in the application of gene editing technologies, today provides an update on the performance of its Immuno-Oncology platform, which combined represents over £1.5 million in current and ongoing product sales and contract research projects in FY17 to date, with a very strong order book in place for the remainder of the year.
The Group notes that the announced current and ongoing product sales and service projects in FY17 to date relating to immuno-oncology represents an almost 40% increase over full year 2016 revenue for these products and services. 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 we reiterate guidance of £30M to £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, which 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 Ltd., 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 programs with Horizon owning 30% of the equity of the vehicle with the option to increase this to 49.99% based on its previously announced funding commitment of £5.3M which would take the company through to a significant Series B funding round with third-party investors in 2018-19.
Dr. Darrin Disley, Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Discovery, commented: “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 in the coming years.”
Cancer cells utilise a variety of methods to prevent the immune system from recognising and attacking them, thereby preventing their elimination. Immuno-oncology therapies aim to re-activate the immune system, restoring its ability to respond to cancer cells and destroy them, primarily by influencing the function of T-cells and NK cells. Immuno-oncology has quickly become one of the most promising approaches to cancer treatment, and the market is currently estimated to be worth £25 billion per year (£50 billion per year by 2020)1.
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 $1.16 billion, and in 2013, Spirogen was acquired by AstraZeneca for up to $440 million.
About Horizon’s Immuno-Oncology Platform
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. Services include the use of genome engineering tools such as CRISPR to modify a variety of immune cells, and the use of high throughput genetic and molecular screening to identify new targets for immunotherapy and to determine the impact of potential therapeutics alone or in combination. Additionally Horizon offers reference standards for diagnostic assays designed to measure markers that can guide immunotherapy by identifying patients most likely to respond to immune checkpoint inhibitors, two of which are anticipated to be amongst the 10 best-selling anti-cancer drugs by 2020.
In March 2016, Horizon Discovery partnered with Centauri Therapeutics to form Avvinity Therapeutics, a joint venture established to explore the potential of a powerful and proprietary platform called Alphamers to discover and develop novel immuno-oncology therapeutics for the treatment of both solid tumours and leukaemias. Alphamers recruit anti-Gal antibodies, the most common antibody found in humans, to sites on tumours so that the body’s natural immune response is stimulated to attack the cancer. The core concept of re-directing pre-existing antibodies to attack cancer cells recently received a boost via the acquisition of Agalimmune by BioLineRx a significant Israeli biopharma company for a multi-million dollar upfront payment with potential access to substantial additional future payments based on development and commercial milestones.
1. Global & USA Cancer Immunotherapy Market Analysis 2015 - Forecasts to 2020, Research and Markets, 2015