Horizon Discovery Group said today it will invest up to £5.3 million ($7.5 million) to form an immuno-oncology platform joint venture with Centauri Therapeutics.
The joint venture, to be called Avvinity Therapeutics, aims to create a platform for discovering and developing novel immuno-oncology therapeutics for both solid tumors and leukemias.
Avvinity is intended to combine Horizon’s gene editing, immunology, oncology, and drug discovery capabilities with Centauri’s Alphamer immuno-therapeutics platform technology, which the company acquired in January from Altermune Technologies for an undisclosed price.
Horizon said it will license to Centauri intellectual property relating to its translational genomics and drug discovery platforms and will split its planned investment over two tranches. The first tranche of £2.5 million ($3.5 million) has been committed, while the second tranche will be committed at Horizon’s discretion pending progress of three development programs.
In return, Centauri agreed to license background intellectual property (IP) and expertise on its Alphamer technology to Avvinity, which will enjoy exclusivity for oncology-related uses for an initial 3 years. That period can be extended via the issue of further equity concurrently with new investment, Horizon added.
Alphamer technology is based on chemically synthesized molecules redirecting naturally occurring antibodies to selected pathogens to fight infection—what the company calls “programmable immunity.” One end of the synthesized molecule binds a cell-surface target on the pathogen using an aptamer, and the other end presents specific epitopes that attach to the circulating antibodies.
Horizon and Centauri will jointly manage Avvinity. Horizon said it will own 33% of Avvinity’s equity, representing 50% of the most-preferred class of voting shares, based on its investment of IP, technology, and the first tranche of funding. Upon completion of the second tranche, Horizon will own 49.99% of Avvinity’s equity, representing 50% of the most-preferred class of voting shares.
“We have created an exciting new company to spearhead Horizon’s move into targeted therapeutic development,” Darrin M. Disley, Ph.D., Horizon’s CEO and president, and president of its research biotech unit, said in a statement. “We are confident this joint venture will break new ground in the development of immunotherapies, and bring significant value creation to Horizon shareholders.”
Horizon said its Research Biotech business (formerly Horizon’s leveraged business unit) will oversee the company’s co-management of Avvinity.
Avvinity plans to raise “significant” new external investment, Horizon added, with the goal of advancing its treatments into clinical trials.
Horizon said the joint venture was part of its previously announced strategy of investing up to £10 million ($14 million), and leveraging its IP, technology platforms, and know-how, to identify new molecular and cellular cancer therapeutics.