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A pair of model-building aficionados
May 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Early April ushered in the signing of a deal between drug discovery and development service company Crown Bioscience Inc. and personalized medicine research tools provider Horizon Discovery in Cambridge, U.K., to develop novel in-vivo models for drug discovery.  
Under the terms of the agreement, which is a continuation of a previous collaboration between the two companies, Crown will gain access to Horizon's proprietary collection of X-MAN isogenic cell lines to develop drug discovery models and provide in-vivo animal services to third parties.  
"A large share of drug discovery and development work is being outsourced these days and being able to provide the most comprehensive set of models and the expertise to go with them is essential," Eric Rhodes, chief technology officer of Horizon Discovery, tells ddn. "Each of the two companies brings its own brand of expertise to the table, particularly in the field of oncology. Horizon is the world's leading developer of genetically modified and characterized cell lines with its catalogue of over 500 X-MAN isogenic lines. Crown is a world-leading provider of translational oncology services with over 550 unique primary derived tumor grafts and 120 validated xenograft models. The marriage of the two provides customers with the most powerful set of tools to help them quickly and definitively drive their drug discovery programs toward the clinic."
The companies have their eyes on cancer models primarily, noting in the news release about the deal that "high-quality disease models are crucial for generating first-in-class patient-relevant targets while facilitating the development of novel oncology targets and early-stage drug discovery programs within the pharmaceutical industry."  
The original deal between Crown and Horizon was announced in November 2011 after informal meetings took place among senior executives of the two companies, Rhodes notes, and adds that the deal at that time was a time-limited, non- exclusive relationship.  
"It was essentially a testing period between the two companies to see if they could work well together and shared a common business culture," he explains. "Regular calls were established between the R&D and commercial teams of the two companies to become more familiar with the available assets and how to best work together."  
"We are excited to continue working with Horizon through this new collaboration, and believe that the project will bring us closer to achieving a global leadership position in supporting oncology drug discovery programs," said Jean-Pierre Wery, president of Crown Bioscience, in the official announcement of the collaboration. "This exclusive agreement confirms Crown Bioscience's position at the forefront of innovation within the global biotech and pharmaceutical industry. This is an important step on our path towards finding new answers to meet the urgent needs of our customers in their fight against cancer."  
After having received Horizon's X-MAN lines in-house, Crown undertook a series of validation experiments to gain experience with the lines and generate data that could be used with potential clients, Rhodes says. During the course of this work an excellent working relationship developed between the two companies and it seemed clear to both parties that they shared a commitment to providing a high-quality collaborative research environment for their clients.  
"The relationship developed in a fairly linear process as each group became more comfortable working with the other," Rhodes relates. "The cultures of the two companies meshed well and we decided to more fully commit to jointly building a commercial offering."  
Darrin Disley, CEO of Horizon Discovery, noted of the deal that he is confident this partnership will yield "exciting results" in large part because the suite of in-vivo models developed with Crown "will ideally complement our extensive range of in-vitro drug discovery tools and services."  
For Crown Bioscience's part, the company expects the new partnership with Horizon will allow it to work toward greater insights and better means to evaluate the therapeutic value of compounds and their impact on key physiological functions.  
Elaborating on the complementary nature of the collaboration, Rhodes notes that an important factor in teaming up is the role each company plays in the drug discovery and development pipeline.  
"Researchers doing testing on cells in plates eventually need to take their testing into the whole animal environment. Conversely, researchers who encounter problematic results in animal testing sometimes need to step back into cellular models of disease to better understand the interactions that are occurring," he explains. "This relationship allows researchers who are currently using Horizon's cell lines for in-vitro testing to take those very same lines directly into animal models. Because Horizon concentrates on the cell line side and Crown concentrates on the animal work, the commercial interests of the two are perfectly aligned and the current deal incentivizes and rewards each party for bringing new clients and projects to the other."  
"Each party will continue to focus on its area of expertise and apply the latest technological improvements," Rhodes concludes. "Horizon's capacity to develop new cell lines is increasing, and as Horizon's collection of cell lines expands, so also will Crown's ability to offer a wider array of animal testing models."  
Code: E051323



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