Horizon buys Sage for $48m as BIg Pharma turns to personalised medicines for increased return on investment

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Horizon buys Sage for $48m as BIg Pharma turns to genomics

Related tags Pharmacology

Merck KGaA’s acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich is testament to Big Pharma’s growing interest in personalized medicine says Horizon Discovery, which has bought Sage Labs for $48m (€38m).

UK-based genomics and drug discovery services provider Horizon recently reported revenue growth for the first six months of 2014​, and said it was on the hunt for acquisitions. Now, just a week on, the firm has bought St Louis, Missouri-based firm Sage Labs adding its gene editing technologies to its genomics offerings.

The deal will combine Sage’s in vivo​ model generation zinc-finger nuclease (ZFN) platform to Horizon’s in vitro​ tech which, according to CEO Darrin Disley, places the firm as the only life sciences firm to offer broad in vitro​ and in vivo​ gene editing services.

Horizon competes against a number of firms in this space – including Sigma-Aldrich, Life Technologies, Cellecta and Caribou - but Disley told Outsourcing-Pharma.com the firm “has a far wider range of gene editing technologies and downstream products and services than any of these companies, and the strongest IP suite, which enables us to find the best solution for every gene editing project.”

Once part of Sigma-Aldrich, Sage – which was bought last year by Telegraph Hill Partners – brings a workforce of 50 to Horizon, along with 43,000 sq. ft. of facility space. 

Smaller market, better chances

Last week’s acquisition of rival Sigma-Aldrich​ by Germany’s Merck KGaA for $17bn, and Disley told us that deal was representative of Big Pharma’s growing interest in personalized medicine and genomics.

“Pharma is recognising the strategic nature of gene editing for translational genomics research, but more importantly in the discovery and implementation of personalised medicine,”​ he told us. 

“This will drive the new drug development paradigm where increasing numbers of drugs targeting smaller patient populations are developed, with much shorter development times.”

While personalised medicine targets a much smaller patient population he argued the shift makes sense financially as there are lower development costs, reduced failures and long patent protection thus the returns on investment for drug development will “actually dramatically rise.”

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