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Horizon adds free technical support services for its genomic editing tech

By Natalie Morrison , 06-Mar-2012
Last updated on 06-Mar-2012 at 15:01 GMT

Horizon Discovery has launched a new website to provide technical support to researchers using its rAAV-mediated genome editing tech.

The new website will support researchers using Horizon’s rAAV platform in all stages of the drug discovery process – from primary screening, through to target identification and validating.

It will provide free technical support to users, as well as information updates, archives for academic articles, and discussion forums.

Rob Howes, principal scientist, Horizon told Outsourcing-Pharma: “We currently provide services on our entire range of cell lines, including generating the lines and screening. The new website will really help us to maintain and control the technology.”

The firm is now looking to ink more alliances with both pharma firms and academic researchers, focusing especially on those with un-chartered disease areas.  

And the biz – which currently operates within Europe and the US – is also targeting partnerships in new regions.

Howes said: “We’re heavily focussed on oncology because it is the disease with the most characterised cell lines out there, and of our 400 cell lines, cancer base pairs make up the majority.

“But we’re now trying to move into other areas. There are some really innovative new areas that can be helped by this technology. It could help to establish new test models for other research areas.”

He added the platform is more reliable than its one major rival isogenic cell line currently on the market, which is nuclease based.

“Nuclease-based methods break the DNA strand and repair it so that it has the desired mutation. However ours is more reliable because instead we introduce the mutation through the collaboration method using a rAAV virus,” he said.

“It means you can introduce exactly the mutation you want exactly how you want to do it. Nuclease just isn’t as efficient for as wide a range of cell lines.”

Beyond R&D

The company touts the technology as a tool that can go beyond R&D (research and development), and has uses in post-marketed drugs.

In a 2010 study on colon cancer drug Erbitux, it found patients previously thought unsuitable for the medication because of a mutated gene could safely take it.

“Our cell lines were used to prove that some mutations that were previously thought a problem when using the drug, actually weren’t. The study found these patients should still be getting the medication,” said Howes.

He added the firm welcomes more similar studies for blockbuster medications.

A win-win situation

The company now hopes to build its catalogue cell lines further by establishing relationships with academic institutions.

Howes told us: “It’s really about increasing the breadth of test models available. We are giving the technology to academic societies for free, and we can then commercialise the result and pay them royalties for it. They can modify any cell line in our catalogue using our rAAV editing platform.”

He described the set-up as a “win-win” situation as it drives R&D whilst still remaining commercially viable.

“However we don’t really look to just commercially viable partnerships, we’re pretty open. This technology comes from academia and it is nice to give something back,” he added.

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