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15 May 2014

Horizon Discovery Group plc to Acquire CombinatoRx Service Business and Assets from Zalicus Inc.

Horizon Discovery Group plc has agreed to acquire the CombinatoRx service business (known as the combination high throughput screening (cHTS) business) and related assets from Zalicus Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that discovers and develops novel treatments for patients suffering from pain, for £4.74 million ($8.0 million USD). The new business will become Horizon CombinatoRx Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of Horizon.


Horizon CombinatoRx will provide access to the unique cHTS platform and Chalice analytics software, which enables the screening and analysis of thousands of complementary drug combinations. By combining the cHTS platform with Horizon’s GENESIS (rAAV, CRISPR & ZFN) gene editing platform and X-MAN isogenic cell line technology, Horizon CombinatoRx will be able to offer services including novel phenotypic cell-based screens with compound siRNA, shRNA and sgRNA (for CRISPR based screening) libraries.


These new services will offer a powerful solution for drug discovery and development organizations to explore the efficacy and mechanistic synergies of thousands of drug combinations, with the potential to identify personalized medicine regimens for the treatment of serious diseases. The business will benefit from expansion of its historical customer base in North America to Europe, Japan and beyond via access to Horizon’s business development infrastructure and an 800+ strong customer base.


Combination therapies are emerging as the standard of care in indications such as cancer, inflammation, diabetes, and infectious disease. The current approach for developing combination therapies at the clinical stage misses the opportunity to identify novel multi-target mechanisms that better address the systems biology of disease and the emergence of resistance. The new services offered by Horizon CombinatoRx address this need by providing a scalable, high throughput combination screening platform, alongside Horizon’s gene editing and drug discovery and development expertise.


The assets acquired by Horizon, developed through a cumulative R&D investment of more than $30 million, include two fully integrated robotic screening platforms optimized for combination screening, outstanding customer contracts, the Chalice informatics platform, a highly characterized library of approximately 800 cell lines, and an extensive compound and chemical probe library. Horizon CombinatoRx, Inc. will be located in 23,000 sq. ft. of laboratory and office space in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA, providing a base for future growth of Horizon business operations in North America.


Jeb Ledell, Vice President of Corporate Operations, Zalicus Inc. will become Chief Operating Officer of the subsidiary, Horizon CombinatoRx Inc., and will lead a dedicated operations and R&D team with decades of experience in combination sciences. Horizon’s Lydia Meyer Turkson will become Vice President (US) Business Development.


“We have been very impressed by the scientific excellence, passion and resilience of the CombinatoRx service business over many years, and we are delighted to have agreed to acquire the business and assets from Zalicus,”  commented Dr Darrin M Disley, Chief Executive Officer of Horizon Discovery Group plc. “The scalable and proven cHTS and Chalice platform combined with our world-leading translational genomics technologies significantly broadens the portfolio of discovery research services we can offer to our global customer base. We look forward working with the CombinatoRx team to provide science-driven solutions that will add real value to our customers’ research.”


“I am pleased that Horizon recognizes the value of the cHTS platform, said Mark H.N. Corrigan, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Zalicus. “Importantly, if closed, the sale of cHTS, will increase our cash balance and should provide Zalicus shareholders with a greater ownership position in our previously-announced merger with Epirus Biopharmaceuticals.“

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