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Alumni Speaker Series - Dr Darrin Disley

last modified Jan 27, 2014 04:55 PM
Alumni Speaker Series - Dr Darrin Disley

Prof Chris Lowe, Elena Gonzalez and Dr Darrin Disley

On Friday, 26 November 2010, Dr Darrin Disley gave a talk on 'Introducing X-MAN – The Model Cancer Patient'.

Alumnus Dr Darrin Disley (PhD Biotechnology 1991-96) has a wealth of experience starting-up and growing sustainable companies in the Biotech sector. He is currently the Executive Chairman of Horizon Discovery Ltd; a Cambridge company that in the three years since its foundation has raised £9M of equity investment, closed £12M in sales and returned 11 times the initial seed investment made by Cambridge Enterprise and approved via a committee headed by Professor Chris Lowe.

He talked about the vision and performance of Horizon Discovery, which is leading the world in personalised cancer medicines via the application of its X-MAN (X-gene of interest; Mutant And Normal) human cellular disease models in the discovery, development and prescription of a new class of anti-cancer drugs that are targeted to the unique genetic profile that makes up each individuals cancer. He described the company's multi-award winning virally-mediated gene-editing technology, GENESIS developed by presidential Medal winner Professor David Russell of the University of Washington. The patented technology which was initially transferred from the US into the UK enables any endogenous gene in a human cell-line to be altered quickly, reliably and without introducing unwanted and confounding genotypes and/or phenotypes enabling the development of what are in effect "patients-in-a-test-tube".

He then exemplified with published data drawn from 160 peer-reviewed articles on the company's technology platforms the importance of X-MAN model in a wide range of applications including; target identification, drug screening, drug repurposing, patient profiling, clinical-trial design and the discovery of the next generation of genetic biomarkers that will enable clinicians to match new anti-cancer drugs to the particular cancer patients who will respond best to them.

He finished by describing a landmark example of 'personalised' or 'stratified' medicine, which has been driven by company co-founder Professor Alberto Bardelli of University of Torino. Colon cancer patients with K-Ras mutations were recently assessed in retrospective and prospective studies to be non-responsive to the blockbuster EGFR-therapies Erbitux and Vectibix; and thus testing of K-Ras mutational status is now mandatory prior to drug prescription to these agents. K-Ras testing is saving the healthcare industry $750 M per year in mis-prescription by identifying 'responsive' patients.