CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom—Horizon Discovery and AstraZeneca have inked a research, collaboration and license agreement to investigate several genotypes relevant to cancer in hopes of identifying and validating new novel drug targets.
Per the terms of the agreement, Horizon will explore a set of genotypes for synthetic lethality, performing in-vitro screening activities with its proprietary siRNA Platform. Horizon will then validate the resultant RNAi hits via pathway analysis, functional assays, gene knock-in/knockout assays or confirmation of activity in endogenously mutant vs. wild-type cell lines (Horizon’s X-MAN lines). AstraZeneca will have the option to exercise exclusivity over any of the validated targets. Horizon will receive an upfront payment of an undisclosed amount, and stands to receive additional payments of up to $88 million in milestones if AstraZeneca develops compounds against a number of targets identified under the collaboration.
“We are delighted to have extended our relationship with AstraZeneca’s Oncology team with this latest agreement,” Dr. Darrin M. Disley, CEO at Horizon Discovery, said in a press release. “Horizon is uniquely placed in the translational genomics field for investigation of synthetic lethality, as our X-MAN isogenic disease models incorporate patient-relevant genetic context, and allow large-scale, timely and systematic screens for the first time. Combined with our high-throughput RNAi and bioinformatics technology platforms, we have a powerful offering.”
This agreement represents the second oncology-based collaboration between the two companies in the past year. In April 2013, Horizon and AstraZeneca established an exclusive collaboration and license agreement for the exploration of HD-001, Horizon’s first-in-class kinase target program, in hopes of developing novel therapies for a range of cancer types. The target has been found to be mutated in several cancer types, such as colon and lung, and has been linked to K-Ras mutant tumors. Last year, the HD-001 program won the SCRIP Award for ‘Licensing Deal of the Year.”
“AstraZeneca’s strategy of collaborating with innovative organizations like Horizon allows us to broaden our oncology research efforts and complement our own internal capabilities. Partnering Horizon’s excellent capabilities in synthetic lethal screens and validation with our strong oncology discovery and development expertise offers real potential to address the need for novel cancer therapeutics, and ultimately to make a difference to patients,” Susan Galbraith, head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca, commented in a statement.
Synthetic lethality is the instance in which the combination of mutations in two or more genes causes cell death, but a mutation in one of those genes does not. Synthetic lethal screens have a great deal of potential in oncology, as it might be possible to use the pairs of mutations to selectively kill cancer cells while limiting damage to normal, healthy cells. The X-MAN isogenic cell lines from Horizon model disease-causing mutations in patients with cancer and other diseases.