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X-On-The-Beach: Horizon forms Commercial Alliance with GeneWorks in Australia & New Zealand

07 Jan 2009

Horizon Discovery Ltd. (Horizon) and GeneWorks Pty. Ltd. (GeneWorks) today announced a corporate-level alliance that will expand GeneWorks genomics capabilities into the field of translational medicine.

Targeted or personalized medicines represent the future of treating genetic-based diseases such as Cancer. However, their discovery is a long and attritional process that could be significantly aided by predictive laboratory models that better represent the genetic make-up of the human cancer patient populations we are trying to treat.

Through this alliance, GeneWorks will now be able to offer researchers access to world-leading tools and services for creating, studying and deploying genetically-defined human cancer disease models to aid in the identification of patient-relevant drug targets and; the discovery of new drugs targeted at the patient populations most likely to respond based upon genetic make-up.

GENESIS™, a proprietary virally-mediated homologous recombination technique, is used to precisely knock-in disease-causing genetic mutations (single, double, triple) into the endogenous gene loci of normal cells. The result is model in-vitro systems for interrogating the selectivity of cancer drugs with respect to diseased versus normal patient genotypes. The technique enables the routine creation of patient-relevant models within 3 to 6 months where previously it would have taken up to 24months using conventional DNA-based homologous recombination.

GENESIS, which recently won the 2008 Medical Futures Innovation Award for Cancer, underpins a rapidly-growing portfolio (100+) of X-MAN™ (Mutant And Normal) cell-line pairs. The benefit of X-MAN models to researchers is that you are working with a model system that: (a) accurately represents the mutations seen in a real patient situation and; (b) provides a built-in reference of normal vs. diseased patient genotype. By screening potential drug-candidates on such well defined model systems, clear information on a drug’s mechanism, therapeutic window and responsiveness can now be obtained prior to entering expensive clinical trials.

Peter Guilhaus, CEO of GeneWorks says “cancer drugs are notoriously un-selective towards cancer cells versus normal cells, and there is a trend to developing targeted drugs that better target the fundamental genetic causes of cancer. However, cancer is not a single disease; every person’s cancer is defined by the presence of several genetic mutations; the spectrum of which will be highly ‘personalized’. X-MAN cell lines separate the cancer-gene spectrum to aid the discovery of specifically targeted drugs that can be used singularly or in combination”

Nik Psevdos, National Manager for the GENESIS and X-MAN Offering adds “The X-MAN Discovery 1 panel of cell lines focuses on a single cancer-causing gene and will provide key information on which cancer patient populations respond best to a drug. However, it is also becoming critical to check whether other (secondary) mutations modulate this response or impart resistance. These effects can be studied in a predictive in-vitro regime for the first time with the Discovery 2 panel of cell lines; which have combinations of two cancer genes (double knock-ins).

Psevdos continues this theme “The Researcher lines are primarily targeted to the multitude of secondary, epigenetically regulated or modifier genes that are differentially expressed in cancer vs. normal cells (non-mutated) enabling researchers to understand the broader context of the cancer-causing pathways they are studying and, in certain cases, if any represent valid targets for future therapy”

Dr Darrin M Disley, Commercial Director of Horizon says “we are delighted that GeneWorks is going to be the front-face of our technology in Australia and New Zealand, a real hot-bed of genomics research. We believe that the combination of our pioneering translational genomic tools with GeneWorks long-history of supplying genomic-based research with leading-edge product and service solutions, will provide Australian and New Zealand researchers with an opportunity to lead the world in the application of GENESIS and X-MAN technology.

Dr Disley goes on to say” GeneWorks will be our preferred partner in this territory, initially offering: custom gene-engineering services and access to the current panel of 100+ X-MAN lines on evaluation, direct licensing and technology access terms. The second phase of the relationship, to come on line later in 2009, will look to introduce a central screening service and/or technology access consortium targeted at collaborative working with academic, Biotech and Pharma accounts.

The relationship will begin in January 2009.