Horizon Discovery Group, a global company specialized in gene editing, has announced the start of a immuno-oncology joint venture with Centauri Therapeutics, Ltd., a United Kingdom-based biotech working to discover and develop molecules targeting life-threating infectious diseases.
The new company, Avvinity Therapeutics, will combine Horizon’s gene editing, immunology, oncology, and drug discovery expertise, with Centauri’s hallmark Alphamer technology, to launch a proprietary platform for the discovery and development of immune-oncology therapeutics for solid tumors and leukemias, Horizon announced in a press release.
Avvinity is partly the result of Horizon’s strategic plan to invest up to £10 million ($14 million) — leveraged by its IP, technology platforms and know-how — into next-generation molecular and cellular cancer therapies. Immunotherapies, the U.K.-headquartered company noted, have an estimated current market value of £25 billion ($35 billion) per year.
“By combining Horizon’s deep understanding of the genetic basis of cancer alongside its gene editing, drug discovery and emerging immuno-oncology toolbox, with Centauri’s unique Alphamer technology and knowledge of its use, we have created an exciting new company to spearhead Horizon’s move into targeted therapeutic development. We are confident this joint venture will break new ground in the development of immunotherapies, and bring significant value creation to Horizon shareholders,” said Dr. Darrin M. Disley, Horizon’s CEO and president of Research Biotech. “The establishment of Avvinity is in line with our hybrid Research Biotech strategy to not only work with partners but also take advantage of the therapeutic upside potential of the most exciting new areas of personalized and genomic medicine in a risk-managed way.”
Avvinity will be co-owned by Horizon and Centauri, with Horizon investing up to £5.3 million in the company, including an initial outlay of £2.5 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Horizon will out-license certain background intellectual property (IP) relating to its translational genomics and drug discovery platforms, and Centauri will license background IP and expertise on its Alphamer therapeutic platform, which it describes as “programmable immunity.” Avvinity will have exclusivity for the field of oncology for an initial three-year period, which may be extended.
“Alphamers are an entirely novel way to target disease and represent an exciting new approach for recruitment of host immunity. At Centauri we have invested to build the Alphamer platform and assembled the drug discovery expertise necessary to exploit the platform in infectious diseases. Through this joint venture with Horizon, we look forward to applying our combined know-how and capabilities to develop Alphamers as important new immuno-oncology medicines, particularly for cancer indications that have proven intractable to date,” said Centauri’s CEO, Dr. Mike Westby.