Horizon Discovery Group Plc, a UK-based company which specializes in gene editing and modification, recently entered into an exclusive partnership with C4X Discovery Holdings, a pioneer in drug discovery. The partnership aims at developing and delivering oncology drugs for conditions that have very limited or no effective treatments available in the market such as colorectal and lung cancer. Under the exclusive partnership, Horizon will put its proprietary technology CRISPR-Cas9 to use and identify new synthetic lethal oncology threats which, in turn, will be used by C4XD to identify pre-clinical drug candidates using its patented 4D shape-based chemistry technology known as Conformetrix. The ultimate goal of the partnership is to develop ground-breaking oncology drugs.
Cancer cells require DNA pathways to repair in order to replicate and survive. Synthetic lethal oncology studies harness the dependency of cancer cells on repairing DNA pathways. The drugs work by identifying a specific DNA repair pathway on which particular cancer cells with mutations are dependent on. The novel oncology drugs then inhibit the repair process causing the cancer cells to self-destruct. A great practical example where synthetic lethal oncology is implemented is the use of drugs that specifically inhibit the DNA repair pathway of mutated BRCA cells which are the main cause of ovarian and breast cancer. Other mutating DNA repair pathways identified in recent times include poly (ADP-ribose) and polymerase (PARP). Inhibitors for PARP in Zejula, Rubraca, and Lynparza were recently approved further demonstrating the effectiveness of synthetic lethal oncology in the treatment of cancer.
Horizon Discovery Group has leveraged the recent advancements in technology to improve its CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to perform a systematic process termed as “functional genomic screening”. The innovative screening procedure aims to identify new sequences of DNA repair pathways for specific cancer mutations. So far, Horizon Discovery Group has used its cutting-edge technology to conduct a high-quality study of the CRISPR sequences of various types of cancer cells. The company has put approximately ~3000 genes for screening and has identified ~20 new synthetic lethal genes that show great potential. The exclusive partnership aims at validating the synthetic lethal genes identified by CX4D which will later run and fund pre-clinical tests to develop inhibitors and deliver oncology drugs to the market. In case CX4D discovers pre-clinical drug targets it will license out the development of those drugs to its partners and Horizon Discovery group will receive an undisclosed percentage of the revenue share as decided in the exclusive partnership agreement.