A pair of model-building aficionados

Crown Bioscience and Horizon Discovery forge two-year deal to offer combined solutions for in-vivo oncology model development

Jeffrey Bouley
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SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Early April ushered in the signing of adeal between drug discovery and development service company Crown BioscienceInc. and personalized medicine research tools provider Horizon Discovery inCambridge, U.K., to develop novel in-vivomodels for drug discovery.
Under the terms of the agreement, which is a continuation ofa previous collaboration between the two companies, Crown will gain access toHorizon's proprietary collection of X-MAN isogenic cell lines to develop drugdiscovery models and provide in-vivoanimal services to third parties.
"A large share of drug discovery and development work isbeing outsourced these days and being able to provide the most comprehensiveset of models and the expertise to go with them is essential," Eric Rhodes,chief technology officer of Horizon Discovery, tells ddn. "Each of the two companies bringsits own brand of expertise to the table, particularly in the field of oncology.Horizon is the world's leading developer of genetically modified andcharacterized cell lines with its catalogue of over 500 X-MAN isogenic lines.Crown is a world-leading provider of translational oncology services with over550 unique primary derived tumor grafts and 120 validated xenograft models. Themarriage of the two provides customers with the most powerful set of tools tohelp them quickly and definitively drive their drug discovery programs towardthe clinic."
The companies have their eyes on cancer models primarily,noting in the news release about the deal that "high-quality disease models arecrucial for generating first-in-class patient-relevant targets whilefacilitating the development of novel oncology targets and early-stage drugdiscovery programs within the pharmaceutical industry."
The original deal between Crown and Horizon was announced inNovember 2011 after informal meetings took place among senior executives of thetwo companies, Rhodes notes, and adds that the deal at that time was atime-limited, non-exclusive relationship.
"It was essentially a testing period between the twocompanies to see if they could work well together and shared a common businessculture," he explains. "Regular calls were established between the R&D andcommercial teams of the two companies to become more familiar with theavailable assets and how to best work together."
"We are excited to continue working with Horizon throughthis new collaboration, and believe that the project will bring us closer toachieving a global leadership position in supporting oncology drug discoveryprograms," said Jean-Pierre Wery, president of Crown Bioscience, in theofficial announcement of the collaboration. "This exclusive agreement confirmsCrown Bioscience's position at the forefront of innovation within the globalbiotech and pharmaceutical industry. This is an important step on our pathtowards finding new answers to meet the urgent needs of our customers in theirfight against cancer."
After having received Horizon's X-MAN lines in-house, Crownundertook a series of validation experiments to gain experience with the linesand generate data that could be used with potential clients, Rhodes says.During the course of this work an excellent working relationship developedbetween the two companies and it seemed clear to both parties that they shareda commitment to providing a high-quality collaborative research environment fortheir clients.
"The relationship developed in a fairly linear process as eachgroup became more comfortable working with the other," Rhodes relates. "Thecultures of the two companies meshed well and we decided to more fully committo jointly building a commercial offering."
Darrin Disley, CEO of Horizon Discovery, noted of the dealthat he is confident this partnership will yield "exciting results" in largepart because the suite of in-vivomodels developed with Crown "will ideally complement our extensive range of in-vitro drug discovery tools andservices."
For Crown Bioscience's part, the company expects the newpartnership with Horizon will allow it to work toward greater insights andbetter means to evaluate the therapeutic value of compounds and their impact onkey physiological functions.
Elaborating on the complementary nature of thecollaboration, Rhodes notes that an important factor in teaming up is the role eachcompany plays in the drug discovery and development pipeline.
"Researchers doing testing on cells in plates eventually need totake their testing into the whole animal environment. Conversely, researcherswho encounter problematic results in animal testing sometimes need to step backinto cellular models of disease to better understand the interactions that areoccurring," he explains. "This relationship allows researchers who arecurrently using Horizon's cell lines for in-vitrotesting to take those very same lines directly into animal models. BecauseHorizon concentrates on the cell line side and Crown concentrates on the animalwork, the commercial interests of the two are perfectly aligned and the currentdeal incentivizes and rewards each party for bringing new clients and projectsto the other."
"Each party will continue to focus on its area of expertise andapply the latest technological improvements," Rhodes concludes. "Horizon'scapacity to develop new cell lines is increasing, and as Horizon's collectionof cell lines expands, so also will Crown's ability to offer a wider array ofanimal testing models."

Jeffrey Bouley

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