Horizon Discovery & AstraZeneca Collaborate on Oncology Drug Discovery Program: Chris Torrance & Tim Herpin




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Video title: Horizon Discovery & AstraZeneca Collaborate on Oncology Drug Discovery Program: Chris Torrance & Tim Herpin
Released on: June 27, 2013. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at BioTrinity 2013, Newbury UK, Fintan walton speaks to Chris Torrance of Horizon Discovery and Tim Herpin From AstraZeneca
Technology and science of Horizon Discovery
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BioTrinity in 2013. On this show I have Chris Torrance, who is Chief Scientific Officer at Horizon Discovery and I've got Tim Herpin, who is Vice President of Strategic Partnering and Business Development at AstraZeneca, welcome to you both.
Chris Torrance :
Thank you.
Tim Herpin :
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
We're going to talk about a partnership between your two companies, but first of all Chris I would like to turn to you and could you describe a little bit for our audience about what Horizon Discovery is?
Chris Torrance :
Yes, we are a biotech company in Cambridge, began about six-years. It's based around a new technology that allows us to translate advances in genomics into in vitro disease models to speed up discovery of personalized medicines, this is very much the future of medicine based around our genetics and getting the right drug in the right patients and we create in vitro disease models that share the genetics of patients in the hospital, that's where we can study them in laboratory, we provide them to pharma companies for a range of things to help their drug discovery efforts.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and the company is a private company?
Chris Torrance :
It's a private company.
Fintan Walton:
Yes and who are your backers?
Chris Torrance :
We have a range of backers of the early days and still with us Cambridge University, we have a range of angel investors, Jonathan Milner from Abcam, CEO of Abcam, more recently we have venture capital funding.
Fintan Walton:
Okay, good. So let's go back to the science a little bit because you know in vitro models are obviously very, very important, when you talk about in vitro models you are talking about cell lines, the ways in which you can identify drugs, discover new drugs.
Chris Torrance :
Yes indeed.
Fintan Walton:
etc , give us a little bit more inside of that.
Chris Torrance :
Yes, so what I mean by in vitro disease models, these are human cells growing in the laboratory, we take a normal human cell and we introduce a proposed mutation that causes cancer for example then we have a pair of cell lines that are essentially identical for that one change normal cell, mutant cell which is representing a disease and then we could study these some of the things they have a drug that targets that mutant gene or that mutant pathway, it should kill those cells and leave the normal cells alone, so these definitive reagents allow us to really discriminate tumor cells from normal cells plus the genetics behind it.
Horizon Discovery's Deal and relationship with AstraZeneca
Fintan Walton:
Well Okay excellent, so I mean obviously Tim, AstraZeneca is looking for collaborations, it's looking for great science, access to great science what was the, could you give us a little bit about the story about why you got interested in Horizon Discovery [PharmaDeals ID = 52079]?
Tim Herpin :
Yes, so maybe I can start with how we built the relationship, this was a process that happened over multiple months, you know we got to know the company, we got to know their technology, we really like the target validation aspect of the technology, and we got to learn about the program that we are ending up collaborating with them with and this was a process that happened over multiple months, where we had regular contact with the company, heard a bit more about the science as it was developing and the more we heard about it the more interested we were, at the end of the day in that collaboration it was a way for us to access a novel druggable target that had been well validated by Horizon.
Fintan Walton:
Right, okay and of course from your point of view, Chris key to your own business model are these collaborations?
Chris Torrance :
Yes, certainly.
Fintan Walton:
So for a company like yours what do you need to do, well obviously you need the great science, but how do you build relationships with companies like AstraZeneca because after all AstraZeneca have got lots of choices why should they go with you?
Chris Torrance :
Yes we've built up relationships with AstraZeneca and many pharma companies and biotech companies, when our company started and still is a service based company where we create disease models for people on a custom basis, we have a range of models that people license already and so we build those relationships up over the last five-years anyway, more recently we've started to do more research within our company, not just service, using the same disease models to take the cancer gene and information which unfortunately most of it is not immediately actionable so you have to use these diseases models to understand how they change the cells biology and then figure out good targets that they regulate and so we've been using this disease models to find new targets and because we had these pre established relationships we knew exactly who you have to talk to and AstraZeneca and me having worked with them before and we liked them a lot and talked to them a lot as we as Tim just said that it seemed a natural thing, we are both in the UK are very close and I think for a project to succeed you need to have very close relationship and we are going to stay very involved in this program.
AstraZeneca's deal and collaboration strategy
Fintan Walton:
Right, I suppose you know we are now becoming more familiar with what AstraZeneca's strategy is Tim and obviously outsourcing and finding you know the right companies, so from your perspective looking at a company like Horizon Discovery what comments would you make about the types of companies you're looking to collaborate, using the Horizon Discovery as an example of that model?
Tim Herpin :
Yes, so just may be to step back, I think in terms of BD strategy right now we are really focusing on accessing emerging science, and combining that we're continuing to access assets typically in development or close to the market. The collaboration we have with the Horizon is a nice example where we work with the company, where we like the platform, we like the people, we've you know tested the relationship a little bit, and then we try to work with them to bring the science inside, if you look at the deal we've done in the past few months you know we've done deals with Moderna [PharmaDeals ID = 51523], we've done a deal with Bind Biosciences [PharmaDeals ID = 52074] where again the key theme was to access top science for our scientists.
Fintan Walton:
Right, Chris this collaboration with AstraZeneca you know could you just, obviously some of the information is still confidential but just give us an idea of what that collaboration is about and what sort of key outcomes you are hoping to get from that collaboration.
Chris Torrance :
Yes indeed, actually may be if I just back up slightly and just comment a little bit about what Tim said, that I think one of the drivers for us was AstraZeneca really did sort of quite deliberately take a look at earlier stage things and our business model is I feel to feed pharma, there is a lot of good pharma but they need to fill their pipelines and a see a role for biotech to fill those pipelines and that's what we are trying to do at Horizon, but not many pharma have that mentality of looking earlier they still want the Phase I, Phase II candidates, but they kind of tapped out a lot of those things but still a lot of companies aren't looking earlier, so that was where it started and I think AstraZeneca took a very enlightened view of that, but the project for us, we had done some early stage chemistry so we did talk a validation using our technology where we can change the gene, the target, make sure it's activity is important to the cancer cell and I think that was a major driver for AstraZeneca to take that enlightened view, but at that point you know we can do early chemistry we've not really of the scale that AstraZeneca do, you know the fully, excuse me, what it takes to get into the clinic, so that's really what we are looking to work with AstraZeneca is for them to really put muscle into further chemistry getting it ready to go into the clinic. We are going to help with the biology because we have built up some much knowledge about this new target which really nobody knows much about, so I think AstraZeneca are quite keen for us to stay involved on that too.
Fintan Walton:
Chris Torrance and Tim Herpin, thank you for coming on the show.
Chris Torrance :
Thank you very much.
Tim Herpin :
Thank you.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Chris Torrance
Chief Scientific Officer
At the time of this PTV interview Chris Torrance serves as Chief Scientific Officer at Horizon Discovery. Chris has significant oncology research and development experience, including six years as a senior manager at Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company, Vernalis. His principle expertise lies in cancer cell biology and drug discovery. In this field, he has led project teams taking drug targets from inception through to hit identification, lead optimization and into preclinical studies. Chris holds a PhD from East Carolina University and completed a Post-Doctoral position in the world renowned oncology laboratory of Professor Bert Vogelstein (Johns Hopkins University) where he pioneered the use of X-MAN" cancer models in high-throughput screening and drug discovery.
Tim Herpin
Vice President
At the time of this PTV interview Tim Herpin serves as Vice President, Strategic Partnering and Business Development, Oncology and STL at AstraZeneca. Timothy Herpin, joined AstraZeneca in 2011 as Vice-President, Strategic Partnering and Business Development, initially for CNS & Pain and more recently for Oncology & STL. In this role, he leads a team of business development professionals involved in all aspects of deal making for the Oncology franchise. Prior to AstraZeneca, Tim spent eight years in the business development organization at Bristol-Myers Squibb covering both search and evaluation as well as transaction execution in multiple disease areas. Before his business development career, Tim worked in R&D at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Aventis and Pharmacopeia. Tim grew up in Paris and is a graduate of Ecole Polytechnique in France. He also holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from University College London and an MBA in Finance from NYU Stern.
PharmaVentures
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
Horizon Discovery is a UK biotechnology company that combines a long scientific heritage in translational research with a world-leading gene-editing platform based upon homologous recombination. The Company is a trusted supplier of genetically-defined cell lines, reporter gene assay kits, genomic reference standards and contract research services to organizations engaged in bio-pharmaceutical process optimization, drug discovery & development, and clinical diagnostic development. Horizon aspires to provide science-driven research solutions that lead to the advancement in the understanding of the genetic basis of disease and the delivery of better healthcare outcomes for patients.
AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca plc is a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company formed on 6 April 1999 by the remerger of Swedish Astra AB and British Zeneca Group plc. Zeneca had been part of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), as three divisions that were spun off from ICI on 1 June 1993. It is a public company and is listed on the London Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange and the OMX exchange.