Collaborations on the Horizon
Industry Insight Feb 19, 2014
To understand more about these agreements and what Horizon looks for in partners, we spoke to Eric Rhodes, Chief Technology Officer at Horizon.
AB: Already this year we have seen Horizon announce numerous collaborations and partnerships, have you made a strategic decision to pursue more agreements or is it simply the case that they presented themselves at the same time?
Eric Rhodes (ER): We did make a conscious decision to look for opportunities to expand upon the range of products and services we make available to our customers. The timing of these two most recent announcements being so close together was somewhat serendipitous, but in line with our strategic plan.
AB: What does Horizon look for in potential partners?
ER: Horizon is a solutions focused business and we realize that our customers utilize a wide range of technologies, products, and services to achieve their goals. We look for partners that offer solutions in related areas that are complementary to our existing approaches. We also believe that good people are the key to success and we look for the proper chemistry and shared vision among all those involved. We feel strongly that in both Haplogen and Sirion we've found a shared vision and strong leadership to make these partnerships successful.
AB: Can you tell me a little more about the recent distribution agreements with Haplogen and Sirion Biotech?
ER: Horizon will be responsible for worldwide marketing of select Haplogen and Sirion products and services. For Haplogen we've focused on their KBM7 gene knock-out collection. For Sirion, Horizon will be selling Sirion's RNAiONE shRNA validation service as well as its existing collection of off-the-shelf validated shRNAs, and cDNA over-expression models in both stable cell line and lentivirus formats. Horizon will also be contracting certain virus production services to Sirion on behalf of itself as well as its customers. Horizon's sales and marketing force will be working with closely with both companies to coordinate ordering, information exchange, and technical support to provide customers with the highest level of satisfaction.
AB: What is it about the Haplogen and Sirion products that makes them complementary to Horizon's product portfolio?
ER: In the case of Sirion, the ability to stably inhibit or overexpress a particular gene is one of the key starting points in determining gene function and its role in disease. Although Horizon's expertise is primarily in gene editing, one of the basic premises that we follow with customers who approach us to undertake gene editing experiments, particularly those focused on loss-of-function studies, is to encourage them to utilize shRNA first to learn what they can from this relatively quick approach. Stable or inducible over-expression is another important way that function can be studied. By linking up with Sirion, we can now offer our customers the best reagents for this type of work. Having used those tools, we can then provide them with the next link in the chain, editing of the genome to re-create patient relevant genetic backgrounds. Sirion are also experts in viral systems and virus production. Many of the cell lines our customers want to work with are resistant to standard transfection or electroporation and a viral delivery approach is the best way to deliver DNA into them, whether it be a simple cDNA or a genome editing capability like CRISPR.
In the case of Haplogen, their human KBM7 cell line is unique in that it is haploid and carries only one copy of each chromosome. Using a viral shotgun approach which randomly integrates itself (in a single copy) throughout the genome, Haplogen has independently disrupted virtually every gene in the cell's genome. Their KBM7 clone collection is a fast and ready source of gene knock-outs. The KBM7 line can be very informative for our clients who need quick access to a gene knock-out, but because of the haploid nature of the cell line customers will often need to take the next step of looking at a functional disruption in the context of a human line carrying the normal complement of 2 copies of each chromosome. So while it might appear that Haplogen and Horizon might be competitive in terms of providing gene knock-outs, we see the two approaches as separate and each providing unique value to our customers.
AB: Can we expect Horizon to announce further partnerships in the future?
ER: We hope to continue to add to our portfolio of products and services that we can make available to our customers. But we are being very selective in choosing our partners and looking for only win-win scenarios.