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Horizon, AstraZeneca Collaborate on Genotypes for Synthetic Lethality

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Horizon Discovery today announced a research collaboration and licensing deal with AstraZeneca to interrogate oncology-relevant genotypes in order to identify and validate new drug targets.

Horizon will query a defined set of genotypes for synthetic lethality and carry out in vitro screening using the company's siRNA platform, as part of the agreement.

Synthetic lethality happens when a combination of mutations in two or more genes results in cell death, but a mutation in one of the genes does not. Screening for such events offers a potentially new method for treating cancer, Horizon said, as pairs of mutations that lead to synthetic lethality can be used to selectively kill cancer cells, while leaving normal cells relatively unaffected.

Horizon will validate RNAi hits resulting from the initial stage of its screening efforts, and AstraZeneca may exercise exclusive rights over any validated targets.

Under the terms of the deal, Horizon is receiving an undisclosed upfront payment. It also is eligible for up to $88 million in subsequent milestone payments if compounds are developed by AstraZeneca against an undisclosed number of targets identified through the research collaboration, Horizon said.

"Partnering Horizon’s excellent capabilities in synthetic lethal screens and validation with our strong oncology discovery and development expertise offers real potential to address the need for novel cancer therapeutics, and ultimately to make a difference to patients," Susan Galbraith, head of the Oncology Innovative Medicines Unit at AstraZeneca, said in a statement.

Today's deal is the second between Horizon and AstraZeneca. Last April, they reached a collaboration and licensing agreement to "explore" Horizon's kinase target program to develop new therapies for multiple cancer types.