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Horizon Discovery Expands CRISPR Licensing Agreement With ERS Genomics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Horizon Discovery Group and ERS Genomics said today that they have agreed to expand their pre-existing non-exclusive, worldwide license agreement covering Horizon's use of ERS' CRISPR gene editing technology.

The companies originally signed a license agreement in 2014, under which Horizon was granted permission to use ERS' CRISPR technology for research purposes, including for the development and sale of tools, kits, and reagents for use in research and diagnostics, and the performance of research services on behalf of clients and to support internal programs. In January 2017, the license was amended, with Horizon gaining full commercial rights to use CRISPR-edited cell lines in manufacturing therapeutics.

This new extension of the licensing agreement will enable Horizon to use CRISPR in multiple new areas, including the identification of novel genetic traits in species relevant to disease model generation and the industrial production of mouse, rat, chicken, fish, pig, and rabbit. The new agreement also grants Horizon the right to have its products made and sold by partners, and will allow one joint venture or spinout in which Horizon has a significant minority interest to use CRISPR for its own internal research without an additional license being required.

Further terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Horizon was the first company to take a license for CRISPR from ERS Genomics, and currently holds what we believe to be the broadest access to this technology," Horizon CEO Darrin Disley said in a statement. "CRISPR is a key component of our gene editing strategy, and has enabled us to become the 'Cell Builders' of choice for partners and customers whose aim is to design, engineer and apply gene-edited cells. Now, through this expanded license, we are able to provide unencumbered access to the benefits of this cutting-edge technology for an increased range of high-value products and services."

Horizon has also licensed other genome editing technology in recent months, building a portfolio that includes everything from recombinant adeno-associated virus editing technology from the University of Washington for non-therapeutic applications to a worldwide exclusive license from Sigma-Aldrich for the use of zinc-finger nuclease technology to engineer in vivo disease models.

In July, Horizon acquired the exclusive rights to a transposon-based platform with applications in bioproduction, reference standards, and therapeutic development. The intellectual property covering the technology is held by inventors from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, the Genetic Information Research Institute, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, and Horizon. The technology is based on helitrons, a type of eukaryotic transposon that can incorporate multiple copies of a DNA sequence into a genome either immediately or at a later time by reactivating the transposon machinery.

In August, Cowen initiated coverage on Horizon with an Outperform rating, with analyst Doug Schenkel noting that the company has "quickly evolved into an emerging leader in gene editing life science tools," especially in the wake of the company's July acquisition of Dharmacon from GE.

ERS Genomics is a company set up to commercialize the CRISPR/Cas9 intellectual property rights assigned to Emmanuelle Charpentier, of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin.

Of this latest agreement expansion with Horizon, ERS CEO Eric Rhodes noted, "Our strong commercial relationship with Horizon has proven to be highly beneficial for both parties. By enabling Horizon's continued expansion into novel markets through this expanded license, both organizations are able to gain access to additional revenue streams."

ERS has signed multiple licensing agreements with various companies for its technology in recent months, including with Oxford Genetics and Taconic Biosciences in May, with DuPont Pioneer in June, and with Cellecta in November.