Pharma Capital

Horizon Discovery: Tackling disease from within

Proactive Investors takes a closer look at an AIM-listed biotech firm that is making advances altering the inner workings of the human body to tackle deadly diseases
Concept of a DNA strand
Horizon's gene editing suite can replicate the mutations that can cause cancer.

Horizon Discovery Group PLC (LON:HZD) specialises in gene-editing, namely altering the biological codes that tell a cell how to behave.

It designs and engineers genetically-modified cells that replicate certain mutations for use in applied research and clinical applications.

The vast majority of its offering is based around accurately reproducing the mutations and anomalies found in cells that can cause diseases like cancer.

Altering almost any gene sequence

The group’s core capabilities are built around its suite of gene editing tools, able to alter almost any gene sequence in human or mammalian cells.

WATCH: Horizon inks 'significant' standards deal ...

Horizon boasts a catalogue of over 23,000 cell generation and application services. It allows researchers to better understand the genetic drivers of the disease in order to develop therapies to treat it.

Ten of the best selling drugs last year were biologic therapeutics, but access to bioproduction cell lines for their manufacture can be cost prohibitive, which is where Horizon comes in.

Deepening relationships

Horizon extended a contract with one of the world’s top three pharmaceutical giants in the middle of February.

The agreement adds to an existing Master Service Agreement for in vivo services (animals/ living organisms) which will now also include in vitro services (test tube).

This customer is now Horizon’s largest customer and contributed £1.5mln of revenue last year which it will likely build on in 2017.

Horizon’s boss Darrin Disley said the new contract underlined the group’s success in deepening relationships with top customers.

“In 2016, our top 20 customers provided over £9.8 million to the group, and in 2017 we are looking to increase our revenue from this segment by at least 20%, with this agreement serving as a template."

Further modification of cells

Underlying its growing market presence, towards the end of 2016 the group licensed its cell line production technology to the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research (NIBRT) and Training.

The collaborations mean any organisation that goes through CPI or NIBRT will be able to access Horizon's biomanufacturing cell lines for research purposes.

Terms of the licences will allow for further modification of cells accessed through the CPI or NIBRT and establishes a potential long-term revenue stream for Horizon.

The group’s commercial offering has already been adopted by around 1,400 research organisations across 50 countries.

If it's good enough for Neil Woodford...

One of the UK’s biggest fund managers once again backed Horizon at the end of 2016 after ploughing more cash into the gene editing group.

Neil Woodford, via his Woodford Investment Management business, snapped up another 80,000 shares in Horizon, meaning he now owns, on behalf of his clients, 14.32mln shares – or just over 15% of the company.

Sales at the double

Revenues rose by 19% in 2016 with a 25% improvement forecast this year.

Sales in 2016 were £24.1mln (£20.2mln), but 2017 should see these rise to at least £30-35mln.

Product revenues rose by 45% to £11.3mln with immuno-oncology sales rising 40% to £1.5mln as 10 developments now use its platform.

Gross margins rose to 54%, from 49%, reflecting the growing importance of the products division said Horizon and underlying losses [EBITDA] reduced to £3.8mln (FY15: £4.6mln). There was a pre-tax loss of £12.5mln (£10.5mln).

Horizon at the nexus

Disley said; "Horizon operates at the nexus of three powerful forces that will drive life science research and healthcare paradigms for decades to come, namely 1) the provision of novel research and drug discovery tools designed to develop personalised medicine and associated companion diagnostics; 2) the development of novel cancer immunotherapies; and 3) the development of cell and gene therapies. 

“With our gene editing expertise and scientific leadership, and global commercial resources, sales channels and business systems now all in place, we are extremely well positioned to take advantage of the international opportunities before us.” 

 

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