Centauri Therapeutics and Horizon Discovery have formed an immuno-oncology joint venture, Avvinity Therapeutics, that will step into a market expected to be worth some £50 billion by 2020.

Avvinity will combine Horizon’s gene editing, immunology, oncology and research capabilities with the UK biotech’s Alphamer technology, to create a powerful and proprietary platform for discovering novel immuno-oncology therapies for both solid tumours and leukaemias.

Alphamer technology is based on chemically synthesised molecules that redirect naturally occurring antibodies in the human immune system to selected pathogens or cancerous tissues, resulting in their death and subsequent recruitment of the T-Cell mediated pathways to clear the body of them.

The groups note that Alphamers promise “key advantages” over conventional antibody and antibody-drug conjugate molecules in immuno-oncology applications, including the ability to target cancers driven by both wild type gene overexpression as well as mutant gene overexpression, and by exhibiting a short half-life in the body resulting in reduced toxicity and systemic side-effects.  

Under the terms of the deal, Horizon will out-license certain background intellectual property relating to its translational genomics and drug discovery platforms, and will invest up to £5.3 million over two tranches. Centauri will license background IP and expertise on its Alphamer technology to Avvinity, which will have exclusivity for the field of oncology for an initial three year period.

“We are confident this joint venture will break new ground in the development of immunotherapies, and bring significant value creation to Horizon shareholders,” said Darrin Disley, chief executive, President Research Biotech of Horizon Discovery Group.