Horizon Discovery: audience favorite Global Entrepreneurship Competition

Jun 02 2009

Horizon Discovery Limited
Providing missing tools that enable “the right cancer drugs to be matched to the right patient”
Horizon Discovery Limited

Historically, pharmaceutical companies have taken a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in search of new cancer treatments. The resulting therapies have been: marginally effective and poorly tolerated by patients; cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and; difficult for healthcare providers to ensure the most effective treatment is prescribed to patients.

horizon_discovery

Horizon Discovery (Horizon) is an Anglo / Italian translational medicine company providing R&D tools that enable the development of a new generation of drugs that target the unique genetic profile of an individual patient’s cancer.

Horizon’s award winning (UK Medical Futures Innovation in Cancer 2008) GENESIS platform has enabled the development of X-MAN ‘Mutant And Normal’ cell-line pairs or “patients in a test tube”. These allow the definitive isolation of appropriately ‘targeted’ drug candidates and; the design of shorter (and more rational) clinical trials centred around the patients most likely to respond. Horizon co-founders are leading the emerging Personalized Medicine paradigm for colorectal cancer treatment.

Horizon has adopted a business model that is delivering: (1) 150+ ‘off-the-shelf’ cancer cell models; (2) custom drug screening and gene-engineering services and; (3) new equity assets via the formation of joint-venture or collaborative deal structures in the Rx, Dx and bio-production markets.

Horizon has closed 22 commercial deals since foundation including world-leading pharmaceutical companies like Genentech (5 deals), Novartis (2 deals), OSI Pharma, AstraZeneca and Millennium and has a 20% stake in the Cancer Research UK funded discovery company Senectus Therapeutics. Horizon has become profitable in its 1st year of commercial operation and projects revenues of £1,800,000 in 2009 with a profit (pre-tax) of £532,000 and with forward Sales of £2,500,000.

The innovation demonstrated by the company has been recognized by the receipt of two Medical Futures Innovation Awards for Best Drug Discovery Technology in Cancer and Best Business Proposition of 2008.


19 Responses to “Horizon Discovery: audience favorite Global Entrepreneurship Competition”

  • Nicol Keith says:

    Targeted therapeutics is a common idea but a difficult one to put into practice. High quality reagents which allow disection of complex phenotypes are of tremendous value. The Horizon products appear to meet a major need in drug and biomarker development by engineering cancer-specific alterations into adult human cells. This ensures a relevant level of mutated gene is expressed. This is itself a big step forward. The list of single and multiple mutations is very immpressive and covers most major pathways. As someone involved in cancer drug developemnt this is very attractive as reagents for cell-based screening and also deconvolution studies. A minor concerm may be the cell background chosen for the engineering. It perhaps relies on the belief that the genotype is more important than the cell of origin. Proof-of-concept studies are really required to determine the true value of these reagents.

  • Chris Torrance says:

    Dear Nicol,

    Thank you very much for your kind comments and feedback. I agree with you that proof-of-concept data is important to validate these models, such as correlating in vitro data with patient responses to targeted agents. We are always keen to collaborate with academic or industry experts in their fields to extend such data and also characterise the X-MAN cell-lines in other ways. I also agree that other parent cell types should be explored and this is something we are committed to doing.

  • Geraldine Rodgers says:

    As a young company Horizon is delivering with respect to increasing shareholder value and its products are gaining credibility through the conclusion of joint venture and collaborative projects with top pharma and bio-pharma customers. To have reached profitability is impressive for a young company starting off with what amounts to seed investment financing, and is encouraging for its early investors. The company will need to manage the risks inherent in progressing to an expansionary and diversification phase, ensure protection of its core business whilst developing other opportunities and carefully match growth with income and funding needs to retain and increase shareholder value.

  • Andy Goldberg MD FRCS says:

    Horizon Discovery was recently awarded Best Drug Discovery Technology in Cancer and the Best Business Proposition in the Medical Futures Innovation Awards (MFIA).

    This is no mean feat, as they had to fight off fierce competition from hundreds of compelling & innovative SMEs each keen to persuade the world-class panel of experts including the likes of Professor Mike Richards, the Cancer Tzar at the UK Department of Health and Sir Chris O’Donnell, himself a successful FTSE-100 CEO, of the merits of their proposition.

    If I had a penny for every time I heard a pharmaceutical Executive say that the blockbuster model is dead, I would be a rich man, especially if I could help them solve the next mystery, and their biggest challenge, which is how to kill off drugs quicker and more cost-effectively along the development process, which costs north of $1Bn and in which most drugs are found to be ineffective or have unacceptable side effects way down the line.

    Horizon Discovery’s patent protected technique (GENESIS), can make significant difference and help pharmaceutical companies know which patient groups will respond to their drugs much earlier on in development, and can also them help develop new classes of drugs tailored to the genetic characteristics of certain patient populations.

    Horizon Discovery is an exciting venture that could speed up the process of drug discovery and help save patients from having to take drugs that may not work for them. What’s more, our Judges (drawn from industry leaders in health service, regulatory and finance sectors) were highly impressed by Horizon’s financial performance in reaching profitability in such early stages of their existence. I strongly support Horizon’s aim to bring personalised medicine closer to reality.

  • Jonathan Milner says:

    Horizon Discovery, in my view, is implementing a pragmatic, customer-focused business model and has very quickly put in place the necessary business fundamentals to succeed in a competitive global market place during recessionary times.

    The company is leading the way in defining the need for personalized medicines in the colorectal cancer field and is supplying an impressive range of tools and services to many of the leading pharmaceutical companies.

    As an entrepreneur and serial biotech investor, I can appreciate a business model which leverages a world-class academic heritage; early products and revenues to build a profitable head-line business and then take equity positions ventures that address additional valuable markets to build investor value.

    Dr Jonathan Milner
    CEO Abcam Plc

  • Tony Quested says:

    We judged Horizon’s technology for our recent East of England Business Awards and it was a whisker away from winning both our Killer Technology and Business of the Year Awards. I have spoken to specialists around the globe who believe Horizon’s technology will accelerate the route to successful delivery of personalised medicines. Outstanding business and well managed with a very clear strategy.

  • Joshua Kapp says:

    As a medical student with a passion for industry, it is incredibly exciting when the fruits of enterprise truly have far-reaching consequences for improving the quality of human life. Horizon’s technology appears to be doing just that. It is leading the way in facilitating the adoption of translational medicine by Pharma and Biotech. The company’s engineered cell lines enable a more rational drug design, where preclinical drug discovery can be performed on accurate patient models, rather than obscure biochemical targets. In this way, patients will, and are beginning to receive the cancer therapies best suited to them, rather than one-size-fits-all treatments which are often marginally effective and highly toxic. Horizon is doing more than simply developing an effective reagent; it is providing the biotech and pharmaceutical industries with the tools they require to justify, both scientifically and economically, moving away from the block buster mass adoption model, towards the targeted personalized medicine approach that will save many more lives. All this from a small start-up is quite a service. I hope they do well in the awards!

  • Dr Darrin M Disley says:

    As a serial biotech entrepreneur who works closely with Horizon I guess I cannot be considered impartial. However I would like to endorse the pragmatic approach to exploiting the core technology platforms taken by the scientific co-founders of the company Dr Chris Torrance and Professor Alberto Bardelli and the adoption of an innovative business model by the company’s investors.

    This has led to early revenues, rapid expansion and the endorsement of the companies business potential by the recent 5x increase in valuation of the business in the first 12 months of commercial operations by the existing investors and a top 5 Cancer Pharma.

    In my experience of setting-up 7 start-up ventures and advising numerous technology centers in Europe, ES, Asia and Africa, key decisions made in the early-stage of a business ultimately define the success or failure of a start-up business. These decisions can be tricky and require founders, investors and management interests to be in alignment. Horizon scientific founders and investors have been a pleasure to work with and their practical support (not control) of the company executive has led to a very strong early business performance.

    Dr Darrin M Disley
    Director of New Ventures
    Execute Technologies Group

  • Nik Psevdos says:

    Having been involved in the Australian biotech industry-commercialisation and service provision- for a significant number of years, I can also appreciate a business model which leverages strong academic heritage. Add to that the potential ability to enhance the prospect of translational outcomes for researchers and personalised medicine…outstanding.

  • Dan Cowell says:

    Having set up two companies in the biotech sphere and having firsthand experience using Horizon’s cell lines, there are two clear factors that make Horizon stand out: their business model and the quality of the science behind their technology.

    It is rare that a company can deliver a new technology to market, be profitable and at the same time deliver value to all stakeholders involved. This has been achieved by dedication, belief, hard work and all without the injection of large amounts of venture capital. In addition, this business model has allowed Horizon to be successful while allowing academic groups to benefit from the commercialization strategy and retention of the control of the company by the founders. This is seldom achieved.

    With regard to the science, new technologies are often hyped, but seldom deliver. Our experience has show that the technology works, can be used to identify selective agents conclusively and questions why large panels of genetically disparate cell lines are still used to try and identify and classify new chemical entities.

    Dan Cowell
    CEO Hypoxium

  • Derek Jones says:

    I have received only positive feedback about Horizon Discovery, both from the academic and business community. There is great interest in Horizon’s technologies, and I am sure that with the team they have in place, they will make a great success of their opportunities. It is also worth noting that the Horizon team are also always willing to spend time talking with other early-stage ventures and other budding entrepreneurs sharing with them their experiences, and playing an active part in the biotech community.

  • Dr Adam Collier says:

    The rapid growth in the number of deals that Horizon has secured over the last two years serves as a clear indication of the significant return-on-investment that biotech-pharma has identified in working with them, especially in a climate when all companies, large and small, have to justify every penny. As a business development director in the industry, I have experience in routinely assisting scientific colleagues in sourcing new targets with a level of validation than can justify the commitment to initiating a new programme. Access to Horizon’s cell lines and impressive drug discovery expertise to further validate the target and the resulting candidate drugs lends further confidence to this investment, and should help to reduce the “industry standard” attrition rates that we all routinely plug into our planning. This is an excellent concept and is clearly being deployed through a well-considered business model.

  • Mariangela Russo says:

    As a PhD student it’s simply exciting to work with Horizon Discovery.

    A lot of people more learned than I am have already explained why they believe in Horizon,
    it is impressive how fast growing this young start-up is and
    how useful the GENESIS technique can be to accelerate the discovery and development of new targeted therapies to enrich the field of the personalised therapy.

    Obviously I cannot be considered impartial, but I’d like to let you know another point of view; what is the meaning for me to be involved in this project called Horizon?

    When each student starts his research career, he really believes that his 12-13 hours of work per day, seven days per week, can change the cancer therapy, can help patients in their war against the disease. But everyday it become more clear that the “gap” between the results of his work and therapy is really too big and too long.

    I really believe that Horizon, it’s technology, it’s goals can change this, it offers a new point of view, it makes the “gap” shorter.

    It’s not only a business company,
    it’s a project of people which really believe in the possibility to change the therapy
    to give to patients a new tool to enrich their possibility of survival, of success,
    not in a far future,
    but now!

    This is the feeling of the work in Horizon, with it’s great and motivated team,
    the possibility to make a significant change!

    When a student has the possibility to be involved in a project like this…it’s simply lucky!

  • Sabrina Arena says:

    As a scientist working in the field of cancer genetics applied to target therapy, I can express my positive and enthusiastic appreciation for the great work performed by Horizon Discovery. Isogenic cellular models are a unique precious tool for understanding the role of each target in tumor progression, thus providing new insights for personalized cancer therapy. I strongly support the X-MAN cell-lines technology and I believe that Horizon Discovery will open new avenues to the design of more rational therapies in personalized medicine.

  • Annarita Zeoli says:

    Horizon Discovery, in my opinion, represents an amazing venture among the pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The goal of this company to generate new drugs that target the unique genetic profile of an individual patient’s cancer is very impressive and stimulating. This new and innovative approach to the cancer treatment underlines an important attention to the patient and to improve his life. I can also appreciate the high quality of scientific background and the important relationship with the academic world that is essential to growth and to become a landmark in the pharmaceutical world. I believe in Horizon Discovery and I support this star-up in the awards!!!!

  • Shirley Jamieson, says:

    Horizon Discovery has a very committed professional senior management team. Also it has a well defined and identifiable marketing strategy. All of the company’s printed material and press releases contain strong clear messages which support the growing business. There is a reason that this company keeps on being recognised by business awards as it is a well run, dynamic company with the combination of a good business model, great technology and an ability for forming good partnerships.

  • Dr Michael Murphy says:

    As a scientist in a Cambridge start-up company based on an advanced physics technology, I appreciate the world-class science encompassed in this proposition. It has been a very tough 24months even for companies with a large quanta of funding and momentum, so to start a Biotech company in the middle of the UK recession and achieve so much success in 24months is very impressive. This is a testament to the high-quality-science and the ability to close deals.

  • Sonia Garofalo says:

    As a research scientist working in Horizon Discovery, I have decided to grasp the challenge of this new company and now I can say I have done the right choice! Horizon Discovery is above all a group of people that believe in their own work: the generation of cell models of complex disease states that can be used to rationalise every aspect of drug discovery pipelines, in order to accelerate the search for new and effective ‘personalised’ medicines. The ‘right drugs’ to the ‘right patients’: a fascinating mission for a motivated team… “we believe”!!!

  • Roberta Rosa says:

    As a young scientist working in the field of target therapy, I can really appreciate the work of Horizon Discovery in developing isogenic cell models applicable to drug discovery for individual patients care. I believe that X-MAN cell lines could be useful to rationalise every aspect of drug discovery pipelines, from the identification of patient-relevant drug targets, to the design of clinical trials based upon the most likely patients to respond to a given drug. Moreover, I greatly appreciate the effort of Horizon Discovery in involving young Italian scientists to grasp the challenge of this international company. For such reason, I sincerely recommend Horizon Discovery as the ideal candidate for this award.

    Roberta Rosa, PhD
    Laboratory of Molecular Cancer Therapy
    University of Naples Federico II, Italy

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