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UK Translational Genomics Company Horizon Discovery Launches new Companion Diagnostics Venture

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Horizon Discovery (Horizon) the translational genomics firm recently named the UK’s most innovative company at the inaugural ‘iawards’ has announced the formation of a new subsidiary venture, Horizon Dx Ltd (HDx). The company will support the development, approval and sale of companion diagnostic products initially in the field of cancer.

At the center of the venture will be Horizon’s expanding panel of 175+ human isogenic cell models that recapitulate key drug sensitivity and resistance mechanisms in cancer patients. These ‘X-MAN™’ (Mutant And Normal) models are being developed using a proprietary gene-engineering technology called GENESIS™ that enables the alteration of any endogenous gene loci in human cells. Using this technology advance, in vitro cell models comprising any SNP or activating point-mutation can be routinely developed to rationally develop targeted drugs or diagnostics to ‘real-world’ patient genetics.

The first commercial products supplied by the new venture is a source of genetically-defined mutant vs. normal human DNA, as well as isogenic cell-admixtures situated within formalin fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) samples. These high-quality and consistent human genomic DNA and cell-based control materials will enable companion diagnostic kit developers and their customers to validate and standardize assay performance; as well as recapitulate the diverse mixtures of mutant versus normal cell populations found in patient tumor samples.

These X-MAN control reagents will be used in conjunction with companion diagnostic kits that are currently enabling clinicians to ascertain which patients will respond to novel cancer therapies, such as the anti-EGFR targeted colorectal cancer drugs Erbitux™ and Vectibix™, based on their K-RAS mutational status.

Through research conducted by Horizon’s co-founder Professor Alberto Bardelli and other groups, it is now known that approximately 40% of colorectal patients who test positive for K-RAS mutations will not respond to Erbitux and Vectibix.

Horizon is initially funding HDx from its balance sheet but hopes to secure a multi-million dollar investment into the company by the end of H1 2010.