CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Horizon Discovery Group plc and U.K. biotech Centauri Therapeutics Limited have come together to establish Avvinity Therapeutics, an immuno-oncology joint venture. The new joint venture unites Horizon's capabilities and experience in gene editing, immunology, oncology and drug discovery with Centauri’s Alphamer technology in a proprietary platform geared toward discovering and developing novel immuno-oncology therapeutics for both solid tumors and leukemias.
The Alphamer technology is based on chemically synthesized molecules that redirect naturally occurring antibodies in the human immune system to target pathogens or cancer cells. One end of the molecule binds a cell-surface target on a pathogen or cancer cell using an aptamer, while the other end presents specific epitopes that attach to circulating antibodies, which leads to cell death and recruitment of T cell-mediated pathways to clear the pathogen or cancer cell from the body. These molecules can target cancers driven by both wild-type (“normal”) gene overexpression and mutant (“abnormal”) gene overexpression, and their short half-life in the body means reduced toxicity and side effects.
Per the terms of the agreement, Horizon will out-license certain background intellectual property related to its translational genomics and drug discovery platforms, in addition to investing up to £5.3 million (approximately $7.46 million) over two tranches—the first tranche of £2.5 million is already committed, and the second will be committed at the company's discretion, based on the progress of three development programs. For its part, Centauri will license background intellectual property and expertise related to its Alphamer technology to the joint venture, which will have exclusivity for the field of oncology for an initial three-year period that can be extended via the issue of further equity concurrently with the raising of new investment.
“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,” Dr. Darrin M. Disley, CEO and president Research Biotech of Horizon Discovery Group plc, said in a press release. “We are confident this joint venture will break new ground in the development of immunotherapies, and bring significant value creation to Horizon shareholders. “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.”
Centauri and Horizon will jointly manage Avvinity, and based on the investment of intellectual property, technology and the first tranche of funding, Horizon will own 33 percent of Avvinity’s equity, representing 50 percent of the most-preferred class of voting shares. Once the second tranche of funding is completed, Horizon will own 49.99 percent of Avvinity’s equity, representing 50 percent of the most-preferred class of voting shares. The joint venture will be managed within Horizon as part of its Research Biotech business.
Neither company will be obliged to provide further funding to the joint venture, though both Horizon and Centauri will retain pre-emption rights and can choose to participate in future funding rounds. Subject to the achievement of key development milestones, Avvinity intends to raise significant new external investment to take its drugs into clinical trials, at which time the value of Horizon’s stake in the business would be highly material.
Dr. Mike Westby, CEO of Centauri, commented that: “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.”
SOURCE: Horizon press release