CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Horizon Discovery Group has announced an effort to upgrade and enhance its gene-editing technologies through a new partnership with Ubiquigent, a specialist supplier of drug discovery services and chemistry. The terms of the collaboration agreement allow Ubiquigent to utilize Horizon’s X-MAN cell lines as part of its ubiquitin system-focused drug discovery services.
“Ubiquitin system-focused drug discovery is an exciting research area that holds a significant potential for future therapeutic applications, and Ubiquigent is a unique enabler of ubiquitin-system targeted drug discovery and therefore provides valuable knowledge to develop products and services that can add meaningful value for our customers,” Thomas Moser, vice president of products at Horizon, tells DDNews.
Ubiquitin, which plays an important role in the death of old or damaged cells, is found in almost all living tissue. It attaches to other proteins and labels them for destruction. When proteins are not marked in this way, that failure can lead to inflammation, cancer or serious neurological disorders.
Horizon and Ubiquigent expect that the ubiquitin system offers a range of drug discovery target opportunities across multiple therapeutic areas, including cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic, neurological and musculoskeletal, and infection and immunity. The modification of proteins through the attachment of the protein ubiquitin, or ubiquitin-like proteins, is key to the control of cellular protein homeostasis. It also plays a central role in signaling, similar to the critical role played by phosphorylation. Roughly 30 percent of commercial drug discovery programs target phosphorylation enzymes. Horizon expects that the ubiquitin-system holds similar potential for clinical use.
Ubiquigent, which is based in Dundee, Scotland, focuses its services and products on the ubiquitin system to support its commercial and academic partners in pursuing ubiquitin system-focused drug discovery programs and basic research.
“Ubiquigent’s first-class experience and deep technical capabilities have enabled us to develop an extensive and highly valuable ubiquitin system-focused drug discovery service platform for our clients,” said Jason Mundin, commercial director at Ubiquigent, in a public statement.
Horizon designs and engineers genetically modified cells. The X-MAN cell line range represents an extensive bank of genetically defined and highly validated human cell line models that accurately exhibit disease-causing genetics and are applied in research and clinical applications to advance human health.
Moser says the agreement is in line with Horizon’s strategy to complement its expertise in gene editing through collaborations that provide access to new areas of expertise and specialization. For example, Horizon has recently entered into partnerships with Axol and Definigen in the area of stem cell differentiation post-gene editing. Moser tells DDNews that Horizon is actively seeking partners to extend this collaboration model to other research areas such as epigenetics or kinase-based drug discovery.
“Based on a broad technology base comprising multiple gene-editing platforms and underpinned by over a decade of practical experience in virtually every cell line type, Horizon can very efficiently modify genes with tremendous efficiency at a large scale,” says Moser. “That said, Horizon is not necessarily a specialist in all applications our customers may have. We therefore partner with companies that have this very special know-how and network in promising fields.”
Moser says that Horizon’s cell lines are particularly well suited for research focused on the ubiquitin system. “Horizon has a unique position in assembling large and focused collections of knock-out cell lines for specific pathways and protein families, ideal models for the study of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes,” he tells DDNews. “By partnering, Horizon and Ubiquigent are now in a position to provide a more comprehensive package to academic and commercial researchers working in the promising ubiquitin system area.”