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Horizon Discovery Forms Immuno-Onology JV With Centauri Therapeutics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Horizon Discovery Group has announced of the formation of Avvinity Therapeutics, a joint venture with Centauri Therapeutics focused on immuno-oncology.

Horizon will contribute its knowledge and technologies related to gene editing, oncology, and drug discovery. Centauri will contribute its Alphamer drug discovery and development platform.

Under the terms of the agreement, Horizon will license certain intellectual property to Centauri and invest up to £5.3 million ($7.5 million) in two tranches. Centauri will license to Horizon IP related to Alphamer technology, with a provision for exclusive use in the field of oncology for three years with the possibility of an extension. When Horizon completes its investment it will own just under 50 percent of the Avvinity's equity and exactly 50 percent of the most-preferred class of voting shares.

Alphamers are disease-targeting molecules that direct antibodies from the human immune system towards select pathogens or cancer cells, leading to cell death and recruitment of T cell-mediated pathways to respond to that type of cell.  One end of the Alphamer binds to a cell-surface target using an aptamer, while the other end presents specific epitopes that attach to the antibodies. Centauri said Alphamers have the added benefit of a short half-life, which reduces toxicity.

"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," Horizon CEO Darrin Disley said in a statement.

Horizon offers AVV-based, CRISPR/Cas9-based, and zinc finger nuclease-based gene editing technologies.

The firms said that they will jointly manage Avvinity and that neither party would be obligated to provide further funding to the new firm. If the JV is successful in reaching key development milestones, it will raise new external investment to support clinical trials.