Horizon Discovery’s gene editing technology shines gold

Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds was the first to back Horizon Discovery, making a £25k Pathfinder investment in 2007 to what was then a new company specialising in gene editing technology. At the time, the company had a mere £9k in the bank, was head-quartered in an office at the Babraham Institute that once served as a toilet, and relied on the services of one PhD student.

“Without the foresight of Cambridge Enterprise to back an orphan project where the technology all came from the United States, Horizon would not have come into being,” said Dr Darrin M. Disley, CEO and President of Horizon Discovery Group plc. Flash forward to March 2014 when Horizon Discovery Group plc, now a leading provider of research tools to support genomics research and the development of personalised medicines, was floated on the London Stock Exchange in the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). The company’s initial public offering (IPO) of £68.6 million was an all-time record for a life science company from the Cambridge Cluster. The stock market float also marked an impressive 30x investment return to the University.

Without the foresight of Cambridge Enterprise to back an orphan project where the technology all came from the United States, Horizon would not have come into being.

Dr Darrin Disley

Since the IPO, the company has acquired the former NASDAQ listed company CombinatoRx and SAGE Labs, the in vivo gene editing market leader bought out from global life science company Sigma-Aldrich and Haplogen Genomics GmbH, a young Austrian company with a disruptive high-throughput gene editing platform. These acquisitions, made for $65 million, have increased Horizon Discovery’s workforce to 210 across sites in Cambridge (UK), Cambridge (Massachusetts), St. Louis, Missouri, Boyertown, Pennsylvania all in the United States and Vienna, Austria.

Horizon Discovery started life as a translational genomics company. Their initial work converted information on the genetic causes of cancer into laboratory models to facilitate the discovery and development of drugs and diagnostic biomarkers to predict ‘patient-specific’ defects. Today it is the aim of Horizon, which is headquartered in Cambridge, to become a fully-integrated life science company providing product, service and research solutions to every stage of the human healthcare continuum, from DNA sequence to patient treatment.

Horizon’s business is built around its proprietary translational genomics platform, GENESIS™, a suite of gene editing tools. Horizon has developed an extensive inventory of genetically-defined cell-line and associated reagent products that accurately model the disease-causing genetic anomalies found in humans. This technology can identify potential medicines targeted to patients with a specific genetic profile. The products have been likened to a ‘patient in a test tube,’ as they allow clinical outcomes to be predicted. Horizon has a customer base approaching 1,000 organizations located across nearly 50 countries, including major pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostic companies, as well as leading academic research centres.

The Company supplies its products and services into multiple markets, estimated to total in excess of £29 billion in 2015. In 2014 the company reported revenues of £11.8 million, 77% growth over the preceding year and increased its market capitalisation from £45 million to £175 million.

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