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Horizon Discovery Adds Three Eminent CRISPR Experts to its Scientific Advisory Board

05 Aug 2014

Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Dr. J. Keith Joung, and Dr. Feng Zhang join Horizon’s panel of expert gene editing advisors

Cambridge, UK, 5th August 2014: Horizon Discovery Group plc (LSE: HZD) (Horizon), the international life science company supplying research tools to organizations engaged in genomics research and the development of personalized medicines, today announced three of the world’s leading gene editing scientists have joined the Company’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The scientists are Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Dr. Keith Joung and Dr. Feng Zhang.

Dr. Charpentier is currently serving as head of the Department of Regulation in Infection Biology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig and Hannover Medical School. Dr. Charpentier is known worldwide for her work on bacterial immunity and uncovering key functional components of the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 system. Dr. Charpentier was principal co-author on a seminal publication1 suggesting how the CRISPR-Cas9 system could be adapted from use in bacteria for broad application in mammalian genome editing. Dr. Charpentier is also a co-founder of ERS Genomics and CRISPR Therapeutics and was recently awarded the highly prestigious Alexander von Humboldt professorship and Dr Paul Janssen Award.

Dr. Charpentier commented: “Horizon is fast becoming recognized as a leader in the field of gene editing, applying CRISPR and other technologies to develop innovative research for understanding the genetic basis of disease and the development of personalized medicines. I am excited to help guide the next stage in the Company’s development, and the application of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to their products and services.”

Dr. J. Keith Joung has a long history in the development and application of engineered DNA-binding domains and systems for creating customized nucleases for genome editing. Over the past ten years, his lab has pioneered methods for targeted genome editing using engineered zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), as well as CRISPR-Cas9. In a recent publication2, Dr. Joung and his co-workers described a novel system that combines CRISPR-Cas9 with a nuclease domain to generate dimeric RNA-guided FokI nucleases (RFNs) with greater specificity than first-generation CRISPR reagents. Dr. Joung is the recipient of a NIH Director’s Pioneer Award and also a scientific co-founder of Editas Medicine. Dr. Joung currently serves as Associate Chief of Pathology for Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and is an Associate Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School.

Dr Joung noted: “Horizon is dedicated, as I have been, to improving the field of genome editing for all forms of research purposes, and I’m very pleased to be able to support and work with the company.”

Dr. Feng Zhang, Ph.D., is currently serving as W.M. Keck Career Development Professor with joint appointment in Biological Engineering and also Brain and Cognitive Sciences departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is also one of the 11 core members of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and an Investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

Dr. Zhang successfully engineered the CRISPR-Cas9 system for genome editing in mammalian cells as published online January 3, 2013 in Science3. Dr. Zhang has been extremely active in publishing a range of articles on the optimal use and design of the technology. More recently Dr. Zhang has published compelling results4 indicating CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing can be employed in high-throughput genome-wide screens. Dr. Zhang is a co-founder of Editas Medicine and is the 2014 recipient of the prestigious NSF Waterman award from the National Science Foundation for his work on the CRISPR-Cas9 system.

Dr. Zhang commented: “Horizon is one of the leading commercial innovators in the area of translational genomics and I look forward to helping to direct their growth as they continue to use gene editing to drive research programs in academic and commercial research labs.”

“As our company expands so does our panel of world leading expert scientific advisors, and we’re delighted to be adding three of the world’s foremost experts in gene editing and recognized inventors of the CRISPR system to our SAB,” said Dr. Darrin Disley, Chief Executive Officer of Horizon Discovery Group plc. “Horizon is pioneering the application of CRISPR technology for research applications, including combining it with other gene editing techniques such as our proprietary rAAV technology, to provide unparalleled precision. The addition of Drs Charpentier, Joung, and Zhang to the SAB further demonstrates our commitment to being the global leader in genome editing and translational genomics.”

Reference [1] Science, 2012 Aug 17; 337(6096):816-21
Reference [2] Nature Biotech, 2014 [TBD]
Reference [3] Science, 2013 Feb 15; 339(6121):819-23
Reference [4] Science, 2014 Jan 3; 343(6166):84-7