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Screening Services on the Horizon
Industry Insight

Screening Services on the Horizon

Screening Services on the Horizon
Industry Insight

Screening Services on the Horizon


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Horizon Discovery recently announced that they have agreed to acquire the CombinatoRx service business and related assets from Zalicus Inc for £4.7M.

The acquisition will provide access to the unique cHTS platform and Chalice™ analytics software, enabling the screening and analysis of thousands of complementary drug combinations. With these new services Horizon will now offer a powerful solution for drug discovery and development organizations to explore the efficacy and mechanistic synergies of thousands of drug combinations.

To understand more about the acquisition and benefits this provides their clients, we spoke to Dr. Darrin M. Disley, CEO of Horizon Discovery Group plc.

AB: Can you tell me more about the acquisition? Specifically why was Zailcus’ cHTS business chosen?

Darrin Disley (DD):  We are acquiring a profitable business, which reported revenues of $8.1 million last year. We see growth potential with the combination of our two highly complementary businesses; the addition of cHTS platform and Chalice bioinformatics software will further broaden our portfolio of discovery services and enable highly attractive drug combination screening that we can offer to our global customer base.

AB: How long have you been seeking entry into the high throughput screening market?

DD: We weren’t solely looking at high throughput screening as targets for M&A. We have been looking for opportunities to grow our world leading translational genomics platform, broaden its capabilities and attractiveness to our customers and establish a stronger footprint in key geographies.  We feel the CombinatoRx business is a good fit.

AB: The press release mentioned that the laboratory and office space in Cambridge, MA will provide a base for future growth of Horizon business operations in North America, did these plans play a significant part in the decision to acquire CombinatoRx?

DD: Yes, Horizon was looking to build its US presence, however we also believe that with Horizon’s established global sales and marketing team and strong 800+ customer base we can significantly expand the CombinatoRx business outside of the US, as well as provide an even stronger combined GENESIS™ and X-MAN™ offering.

AB: How does Horizon CombinatoRx fit with your current portfolio?

DD: Combination screening is particularly important in diseases such as cancer, where many of our customers operate, and Horizon is always looking for new ways to enable drug discovery and development and to provide value. The deployment of the scalable and proven cHTS and Chalice Informatics platform with our world-leading translational genomics platform significantly broadens the portfolio of discovery research services we can offer to our global customer base. The cHTS platform enables the deep exploration of efficacy and mechanistic synergies of thousands of drug combinations with the potential to treat serious diseases like cancer by simultaneously modulating multiple biological pathways with targeted therapeutic regimens.  cHTS also provides a complementary service to Horizon’s siRNA, compound and sgRNA screening capabilities, allowing customers to further probe their compound of interest looking for synergies or antagonisms.  Horizon will also be able to deepen the CombinatoRx offer through the addition of Horizon’s catalogue of over 550 X-MANTM isogenic cell lines to the combination screening catalog.  

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AB: What benefits does this acquisition provide your clients?

DD: Combination therapies are now emerging as the standard of care in indications such as cancer, inflammation, diabetes, and infectious disease. Unfortunately, the standard approach of developing combination therapies at the clinical stage misses the opportunity to identify novel multi-target mechanisms that better address the systems biology of disease and the emergence of resistance. Horizon’s customers will now have access to the CombinatoRx (CRx) platform, to quantitatively assess how drugs or other probes of biological targets interact with diverse genetic backgrounds using whole cell-based phenotypic screening. The platform provides a high-throughput capability to identify synergistic or antagonistic interactions between small-molecule drugs, therapeutic antibodies or proteins that can be developed as therapeutic candidates. The proprietary software solution, Chalice™, was developed to enable the visualization and analysis of combination activity profiling data. Chalice allows researchers to apply specialized capabilities to quantitatively assess the strength of combination interactions to extract valuable insights, discoveries, and data trends from high-throughput combination activity profiling experiments.

Darrin Disley was speaking to Ashley Board, Managing Editor for Technology Networks. You can find Ashley on  and follow Technology Networks on Twitter.

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