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Horizon Discovery and University of Washington Expand Gene-Targeting Licenses

14 Dec 2009

Horizon Discovery (Horizon) and University of Washington (UW) today announced they have entered into two additional exclusive licensing agreements in the area of human gene-targeting.

The new agreements give Horizon a world-wide exclusive right to commercialize inventions made by Professor David Russell, Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology; Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry, University of Washington School of Medicine relating to the use of parvoviral vectors in human genome engineering. Horizon will use its new rights and associated know how to: (a) develop mammalian cell-lines that have been genetically-altered to optimize the bio-production of bio-pharmaceutical agents and; (b) to engineer pluripotent human stem cells as a means of generating an expanded array of human isogenic cell-lines that are capable of predicting the response of drugs targeted at the genetic defects (mutations, deletions, substitutions) that represent the make-up of individual cancer patients tumours.

Using key know-how from Professor Russell and Horizon’s GENESIS™ platform, a range of genetically-stable and high-yielding bio-production cell-lines will be created by knocking-out, or modifying, specific host cell gene-targets (such as glutamine synthetase). Such targets currently hamper the efficient manufacturing of biopharmaceutical agents, such as the therapeutic antibodies Erbitux and Avastin.

The genetic engineering of human adult stem cells, or re-programmed stem cells derived from differentiated somatic human cell-lines in the laboratory, opens up a myriad of possibilities to firstly; rapidly expand and diversify Horizon’s existing portfolio of X-MAN™ research and development tools; and secondly provide a gold-standard source of parental cell-lines for bio-production that have infinite self-renewable capacity.

Dr Darrin M Disley, Chairman of Horizon said “our relationship with the University of Washington has been fundamental to the development of Horizon and the early market penetration the company has made. The new agreements, along with the appointment of Professor Russell who represents a world-leader in human genome engineering and stem-cell research, as a special member of our SAB, will align the technical and commercial interests of Horizon and UW. The ability to precisely and stably alter the genome of mammalian (and especially human) cell-lines, without introducing errors or exogenous vector sequences; opens up several opportunities for our products and services in Rx and Dx development as well as Bioproduction markets”.

Linden Rhoads, Vice Provost of UW TechTransfer said “the University of Washington is delighted that one of its most innovative technology platforms has found such early commercial success via the GENESIS and X-MAN product and service offerings marketed by Horizon. The latest agreements expand the rights of Horizon into two new lucrative market areas and further align the technical and commercial interests of UW, Professor David Russell and Horizon”.

Under the new agreements, UW will be granted an undisclosed number of share options in Horizon and will receive ongoing product royalties from licensed products and services marketed by Horizon. The license comes into effect in December 2009.