Horizon Discovery; Using GENESIS to create the X-MAN cell lines.

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Video title: Horizon Discovery; Using GENESIS to create the X-MAN cell lines.
Released on: June 15, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at BioTrinity 2012, Paul Larsmon talks to Darrin Disley, CEO of Horizon Discovery
Focus on translational genomics and personalised medicine
Paul Larsmon :
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review. On this program I have Darrin Disley, the Chief Executive Officer of Horizon Discovery . Darrin, tell us a little bit about the company's background and how you've reached this stage?
Darrin M Disley:
So Horizon builds on a long heritage in oncology research extensively initially from the United States and then it's developed technologies based upon NIH funded research in the United States in gene therapy now so what Horizon stated in 2007 it was able to ring-fence technology from the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University in the States and brought that to the UK to then start establishing a biotech company focused in translational genomics and personalized medicine.
Winning of The Queen's award for enterprise
Paul Larsmon :
You've had recently very recently won the Queen's award for Enterprise, what makes you special do you think?
Darrin M Disley:
I think what makes us special is the way we have approached the exploitation of the company most companies are built upon the technology that's spun out of university at that time and then developed at that time what we took was a matured technology that was funded by $50 million of NIH funding in the US University of Washington and brought that technology to the UK and then we started a rapid commercialization of that technology bringing products and services to market very quickly generating real revenues and deals internationally rather than relying on raising venture capital financing to take the company forward.
GENESIS technology: Basis and mechanism
Paul Larsmon :
Okay, let's talk a little bit about the technology, the headline on your website says "Translating Genomes Personalizing Medicine", I mean those are cutting-edge contemporary buzzwords, what do they actual mean?
Darrin M Disley:
Yes so that post the human genome efforts when Tony Blair and Bill Clinton stood side by side in the early 2000's saying that genome had been the sequence that the concept of personalizing medicine and treatments that are more tailored to the genetic profile of patients was just around the corner, now the reality of course is somewhat different, translating the billions of lines of code of the human genome into practical useable information for researchers to identify new drug targets, develop new drugs, develop new diagnostics and develop new treatments for patients was a long way in the future and Horizon 's technology is a fundamental technology to enable the translational of that this genomics efforts into those practical tool services and products and so therefore has a very wide sort of gambit of application.
Paul Larsmon :
Yes, and what is the GENESIS technology, how does it work?
Darrin M Disley:
Well the GENESIS technology is a genome editing technology that is it can go into the genome of any mammalian organism and edit the code in any way you could imagine wanting to add the code, you can add sequences, delete sequences, substitute sequences and they will then give a functional model of those genetic changes and that's significant because out of the genome effect you now have tens of thousands of researchers identifying what genetic variation means? What does it mean in terms of your likelihood to get disease? What's the meaning in terms of have you got the disease, how would the disease progress and when there is a drug to treat the disease which drug would work best for you in order to be able to understand that in context GENESIS enables you to recapitulate that genetic variation in a human cellular system so that you have a model system to study the impact of that genetic variation.
X-MAN technology: Applications and functions
Paul Larsmon :
And you've created something called X-MAN Cell Lines it sounds very sci-fi, what is that?
Darrin M Disley:
Yes so we focus that in element we captured what we are trying to do a little of our efforts based around modeling patient genetics and what that would mean in terms of how a patient would respond to a particular drug treatment in a disease like cancer which is really a series of genetic based diseases our response to those these treatments in cancer are not going to be the same they going to differ based upon our genetic profile. So by taking a human cell lines, a cancer cell lines and then editing it with that genetic variation that would cause that predisposition to response to that disease we were able to create greater pair of cell lines, X being the genetic change of (indiscernable) gene or a mutation of a gene Mutant and Normal so you have a pair of cell lines so you have can represent both the disease state of the patient and their normal healthy state and therefore you can understand and test the impact of drugs on that system.
Paul Larsmon :
And how far away do you think we are away from those drugs?
Darrin M Disley:
I think the drug development cycle time is a somewhat different question, I think we impact both so the (indiscernable) of match patients with the right drugs is a quality base sort of proposition, the economic pressures that the pharma faced are a different issue but GENESIS and X-MAN technology can also address that because what we can use the technology for our effectively surrogate patients in a test tube, so when you have a drug that's been developed we can identify and model different patient populations and then profile empirically a drug candidate against those in late stage preclinical testing and then we can use that to define which patients should be selected for clinical trial, historically randomized clinical trials are predominated aimed at the one size fits all prescribing process, we can now have the basis to select those patients therefore performing shorter more focused clinical trials which can reduce some of the really expensive part of drug discovery which is Phase I to III clinical trials and therefore compress the expensive part of the process and bring drugs to market quicker with defined patient populations, so we can affect both the quality of what's developed and prescribed and also the time lines that's associated with the cost.
Fundings and investors
Paul Larsmon :
So how have you funded the development of these technologies so far?
Darrin M Disley:
Yes so, as we say I mean Horizon has done extremely well, but like all things it's a lot of it is perspiration or sometimes there is a little bit of luck involved as well, the gene-editing technology had been developed by Professor David Russell at University of Washington and he won the presidential medal for this technology, but he did had $50 million of National Institute of Health funding, so when we got hold of the IP behind the technology it was a pretty well cooked technology so we were able to get ahead of the game if you like not having to raise venture capital we generated customers and then when we did bring in investors they were mature investors like Genentech and Roche Pharmaceuticals, so we were able to get ahead of the game and not worry about the typical life science funding cycle as companies develop get real customers, we've got over 200 different customers over the last four years and that's enabled us to stay ahead of the game and then also leverage our strong position to develop further up the value chain.
Partnering strategies
Paul Larsmon :
What next I mean are you looking for partners at a conference like this?
Darrin M Disley:
Yes, I think that's the idea a historical tools and service based business has grown dramatically a 100% top line growth increase is in four consecutive years and we're predicating a fifth consecutive year of 100% growth and this has enabled as to get in a strong financial position and we've got now we are embedded within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries processes and we can now bring those tools and services together to leverage favor up the value chain and you'll see deals announced in the future where we are bringing that together instead of doing deals of the quainter of one to two million service deal we're looking at 5, 10, 15 times that size deal while leveraging into the asset the target or the drug the compound that's gonna go to market and taking sort of royalties and milestones all the way through.
Paul Larsmon :
And you've recently signed a deal with a Japanese company [PharmaDeals ID = 46711] along those lines?
Darrin M Disley:
Yes that's right, so this is personalized cancer medicine unit of a major Japanese pharmaceutical company and this is a classical type of deal where we're bringing the tools together and services together to add value to that target, validate those targets and instead of taking a full prize fee for that target take some risk element into the target and then as they go through the process take milestone based payments from those.
Business model and future growth plans
Paul Larsmon :
We are currently in a double-dip recession here in the UK, but you seem to be weathering the storm really well, do you think there are any lessons for other people in the same business?
Darrin M Disley:
Yes I think so, I mean people need to focus on customers, businesses are here for customers whether you are making a little widget that's going to be sold in high volume or whether you are developing a drug that's going to go through clinical development of a pharmaceutical company you must focus your business on your customers, so on day one we focused on doing deals they may not have been the biggest possible deal that was possible at that time but it gave us validation of the technology, confidence of those pharmaceutical companies to even invest in our company in a non-valuation driven way they were interested in early technology access and then just get out there and get ahead of the game so that you only raised funds when you don't need funds, so you are raising funds for purely in means of growing the business and the major thing that insulates us is exports, we come back to the Queen's award for international trade over 90% of our revenues are derived from exports, we've had 360% of growth over the last three-years in our exports and that insulates us from the problems in the United Kingdom economy, but we need to build our customer base in the UK and that's the reason for us being here at BioTrinity is that we are starting out to work and even support smaller biotech companies and smaller pharma companies here in the UK with our products and services and taking risk with them in programs.
Paul Larsmon :
Darrin Disley, from Horizon Discovery thank you very much for joining us.
Darrin M Disley:
You are welcome.
Paul Larsmon
Paul Larsmon has worked as a broadcast television journalist for 25 years, covering general news, business and politics. He has been both presenter and producer in several news broadcasters, including the major British television news company ITN. He joined PharmaTelevision as Executive Producer earlier this year and has been responsible for getting PTV News launched.
Darrin M Disley
Chief Executive Officer
At the time of recording this PTV interview Darrin M Disley serves as the CEO of Horizon Discovery Limited and is responsible for corporate development, business strategy and investor relations. Darrin is a parallel business entrepreneur and has been involved in the start-up and growth of ten high-tech business ventures. He is an experienced general manager with a track-record for raising investment for and managing the growth of early-stage technology companies. Darrin holds a PhD in Biotechnology from the University of Cambridge; has been the author of six papers, 7 patent applications and 32 conference abstracts and; has been an advisor on biotech commercialization strategies to key technology centres in Europe, USA, India and Africa.
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Horizon Discovery Limited
Horizon Discovery Limited is a leading provider of research tools to support translational genomics research and the development of personalized medicines. The Company's proprietary technology, GENESIS, is the world's most precise genome editing technology. Using GENESIS, Horizon is able to alter any endogenous gene sequence of a human or mammalian cell line quickly, reliably and without introducing unwanted and confounding genotypes and/or phenotypes. Horizon has harnessed GENESIS to create over 400 X-MANcell lines, the world's first source of genetically-defined and patient-relevant human cell lines, accurately modeling the disease-causing mutations found in cancer patients. These 'patients-in-a-test-tube' are being used by academic and industry leaders to identify the effect of individual genetic mutations on drug activity, patient responsiveness, and resistance, leading to the successful prediction of which patient sub-groups will respond to currently-available and future drug treatments. This enables the design of shorter, more focused, and less expensive clinical trials, ultimately providing the tools to identify the 'right drugs' for the 'right patients' based upon the unique genetic mutations that define their disease. In addition to the X-MAN cell lines, Horizon provides GENESIS and X-MAN derived products and services, with industrial application in: bio-pharmaceutical process optimization; clinical diagnostic development; drug discovery & development; and the provision of reference standards for genomic-based clinical research platforms.