Horizon Discovery Takes Exclusive License For Novel Transposon-Based Gene Editing Technology Platform

Published: Jul 05, 2017

  • Licensing agreements with all patent holders have been completed
  • Enables Horizon to use gene editing directly as a therapeutic
  • New technology has immediate applications in biomanufacturing, diagnostics, cell and gene therapy

Cambridge, UK, 03 July 2017: Horizon Discovery Group plc (LSE: HZD) ("Horizon" or “the Company”), the world leader in the application of gene editing technologies, today announces the completion of licensing agreements with all joint patent holders to provide exclusive worldwide rights to a novel transposon-based gene editing technology platform.

The license broadens Horizon’s gene editing capabilities, with immediate applications in biomanufacturing, diagnostics and cell therapy.  This release follows an announcement on 22 May 2017 describing Horizon gaining initial rights to this technology.

The gene editing technology  is based on a type of transposon (Helitrons), which uses a ‘copy and paste’ mechanism to allow multiple copies of a DNA sequence to be incorporated into a genome, either immediately, or by reactivating the transposon machinery to increase the copy number at a later time. This is in contrast to current transposon technologies (e.g Sleeping Beauty or PiggyBac), which transfer DNA by a ‘cut and paste’ mechanism, where a sequence is removed from one part of a genome and randomly inserted elsewhere.

This technology also enables the highly efficient delivery of DNA into a genome. A common method for DNA delivery is through the use of retroviruses or lentiviruses, which can be challenging to manufacture and are covered by associated IP that require expensive licenses. The Helitron IP provides a far simpler and less expensive approach to manufacturing, promising Horizon the opportunity to realize significant operational efficiencies in cell engineering, and cell and gene therapy.  

The Helitron patent is held by four inventors: Zoltan Ivics (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) and the Paul Ehrlich Institute), Ivana Grabundzija (MDC), Vladimir Kapitonov (Genetic Information Research Institute), and Tilmann Buerckstuemmer (Global Head of Innovation, Horizon Discovery).  Horizon has now been granted an exclusive license from all co-owners for use of the technology, providing freedom to operate for all applications including tool development, service provision, and therapeutic development.

Applications of this technology for Horizon include:

  • Biomanufacturing: supports delivery of the DNA sequence of the protein to be manufactured into bioproduction cell lines (e.g. CHO), and holds the potential to enhance the productivity of cells by having multiple copies of the target sequence present.
  • Diagnostics: to be used to efficiently develop reference standards for assays designed to measure the copy number of a gene (e.g. Her2 in breast cancer).
  • Therapeutics: provides an alternative mechanism to deliver a gene of interest into a genome, and opens up a potentially revolutionary approach to therapeutic development where multiple copies of an expressing gene can drive the effectiveness of therapy.

Cell and gene therapy represents a particularly large opportunity. In 2015, public and private companies raised almost £8 billion to support development programmes in cell and gene therapy1, and the market has been estimated to be worth up to £14 billion by 20252.

Dr. Darrin M Disley, Chief Executive Officer, Horizon Discovery Group, commented: “At Horizon we understand that the improvement of existing gene editing technologies, as well as development of completely novel ones, is critical to our lasting success leading the way in the gene editing space.  Through the completion of gaining exclusive rights from all parties, Horizon now has access to a powerful new gene editing platform that provides a unique approach to gene editing and DNA delivery, strengthening our capabilities in bioproduction and diagnostics, and for the first time directly as a cell or gene therapy.”

1. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601390/gene-therapys-first-out-and-out-cure-is-here/#/set/id/601411/

2. Cell and Gene Therapy market data, ABPI, PWC October 2016

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