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Horizon Discovery Named #1 UK Technology Start-Up and Company of the Year at iawards 2009

16 Nov 2009

Horizon Discovery (Horizon) the personalised medicine company located at IQ Cambridge, today announced that it has been named as the #1 Technology Start-Up in the UK. This evening they received the award at the prestigious iawards ceremony held at the National Science Museum in London. There was further good news when the company (competing against companies of up to 10 years standing) won the overall iaward of the year award from the 13 category winners.

The iawards recognize and celebrate the best British achievements in science, technology and innovation; and are the first awards of their kind to be backed by the British Government, working in partnership with the UK Trade and Investment, the Technology Strategy Board, the UK Intellectual Property Office and leading UK business entrepreneur James Caan.

The awards shine a light on new technologies and innovations, showing how they can translate new ideas into innovative products and services that improve our daily lives. They are also designed to stimulate commercial interest, as well as helping to bridge the gap between business and the general public.

Horizon caught the eye of the iawards judges for its technology and know-how which is providing drug developers, regulatory bodies, clinicians and health-care providers with a road-map for breaking the current cycle of ‘irrational’ cancer drug development. Horizon contends that 12 year development times, $1-billion development costs and 9 in 10 clinical failure rates can be been avoided if drugs are developed for the right patients.

Horizon is developing and marketing novel a suite of in-vitro discovery and diagnostic tools called X-MAN™ (Mutant And Normal) cell-lines that accurately mimic the disease genetics of target patient populations; and provide a crucial matched normal genetic background for reference.

These tools are being rapidly adopted by drug developers to predict which patients will benefit from a specific drug in development before entering expensive clinical trials; and also to speed up the development of more ‘targeted’ anti-cancer drugs like Herceptin, Vectibix and Erbitux. The validation and standardization of companion diagnostic tools is another critical area being explored to ensure that the correct novel treatments are administered to patients based upon the unique genetic-signature of their cancer.

Horizon co-founder Professor Alberto Bardelli has led the charge in one of the first global test-cases for personalized cancer medicines. His publications in the Journal of Cancer Research (March 2007 and February 2009) and the Journal of Clinical Oncology (October 2008), retrospectively analyzed tissue samples from clinical trials on the novel ‘EGFR’ targeting colorectal cancer drugs; Erbitux and Vectibix and found that the majority of patients carry a secondary mutant gene (KRAS, BRAF or PI3K) that imparts resistance to these drugs (in a combined total of 65% of patients trialed).

The K-Ras data has subsequently been confirmed in prospective trials performed by the pharmaceutical companies developing these drugs and the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has since mandated the compulsory testing of all colon cancer patients for mutant K-Ras before any EGFR-targeted drugs can be prescribed. Other candidate resistance genes are likely to follow. As of July 21st 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have also made it a requirement to label these drugs with a recommendation that clinicians test patient for their KRAS status before prescribing the drugs.

The impact of these findings affects every aspect of medicine as we know it. Patients will for the first time have a means to obtain the right drug for their cancer, not only leading to less debilitating treatment regimes and an increased survival-chance, but also healthcare re-imbursers (patients, insurers and tax-payers) will save millions of dollars in avoiding writing needless prescriptions (estimated widely to be >$750 million/year for the EGFR-drugs alone).

Horizon has moved quickly into the global market via direct business development activities around its world-leading human gene targeting platform technology GENESIS™ and it portfolio of 150+ genetically-defined X-MAN cell lines, The company has closed 40+ commercial deals including world-leading pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, Amgen, Genentech (6 deals), GSK, Lilly, Novartis (2 deals), OSI Pharma, and Millennium (2 deals).

Since March 2008 (the time of its seed £150,000 seed investment), Horizon has raised £400,000 in private investment from investors that include Genentech Inc. This modest investment has led to: sales in excess of £8,000,000 in 2009; expansion of its IP portfolio into Rx, Dx and Bioproduction market areas. The company has grown by 300% in operational capacity and 600% in valuation in 2009.

“Dr Darrin M Disley, Chairman of Horizon says “we are very excited to win this award after what has been a stellar 18months for the company. Personalised medicine is a fast-evolving science that has the potential to provide more effective cancer therapies based on having a detailed understanding of each patients unique genetic make-up and then tailoring the right targeted drug, or ideally combination of targeted drugs, for lasting responses”.

Dr Chris Torrance, CEO and co-founder says “Our genetically-defined X-MAN cell-lines provide the first accurate portrayal of specific and diagnosable cancer patient populations in the laboratory setting; and thus will enable drug developers, clinicians and regulatory agencies to more quickly and rationally develop and approve the multitude novel cancer therapies that we still need in the ‘personalized medicine toolbox’ to achieve this aim”.