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updated 12:52 PM BST, Aug 1, 2014
Technology and life sciences news from the Cambridge cluster

Horizon Discovery closes final investment round before IPO

Horizon Discovery CEO Darrin DisleyHorizon Discovery's new CEO says the addition of £5.05m to the £6.25m Series C funding round it raised last year should be its last fundraising before a stock market listing planned for 2013.

Dr Darrin Disley has long been the face of Horizon, but has now moved across from the chairman's seat to the CEO's as part of a boardroom and management shuffle that he says has produced a very public market friendly board.

This includes bringing in David Evans, who has extensive experience in publicly listed diagnostic and life science companies, to replace him as non-executive chairman. Evans joins long-time Horizon investor and Abcam CEO and founder, Jonathan Milner, a non executive director since February this year who has built Abcam from an idea into a London stock market listed company with a market cap of £670m.

Dr Disley says it is no great secret that it plans to list by 2013 and will use the cash and new board to get the company as ready as possible for the listing.
Speaking about the new management structure, Dr Disley said: "We wanted to continue to drive business on, so we needed someone who was operationally very strong and strong at managing investors. I think we reached the stage where the scientific founders operationally would struggle at that level."

Dr Disley says it is no great secret that the company plans to list by 2013 and will use the cash and new board to get the company as ready as possible for the listing.

Speaking about the new management structure, Dr Disley said: "We wanted to continue to drive the business on, so we needed someone who was operationally very strong and strong at managing investors. I think we reached the stage where the scientific founders operationally would struggle at that level."

The money will be used to increase staff numbers and develop a number of in-house products that could provide new strands to the business, including a target identification technology it plans to spin out in the future.

As well as a facility on the Cambridge Science Park, the company has just taken 20,000 sq ft of additional space at its IQ Cambridge headquarters with enough room for the 140 people it wants to have employed by 2013. Staff figures last year were 25, are 65 at the moment and should hit around 100 next year.

Horizon has also shown massive revenue growth since its was founded by Dr Chris Torrance and Professor Alberto Bardelli in 2007. It's X-MAN line, described as 'patients-in-a-test-tube', has the potential to bring down the costs and accelerate the process of drug discovery and has attracted most of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies because of its ability to accurately model disease-causing mutations in cancer patients.

This has played an important role in lifting revenues by 100 per cent each year for the last four, reaching an expected £4.8m this year.

It has raised £13.9m in its lifetime including seed funding and says that its valuation has increased 40-fold, now estimated to be around £35m.

Because Horizon only has one shareholder class for all its investors, this growth has also enabled the company to return significant funds to all its existing shareholders.

For instance, while Horizon has already delivered a 3-fold return on the investments made by Cambridge Enterprise, Cambridge University's technology transfer outfit, and has also delivered an 11-fold return on the original cash investment from the University Challenge Fund, there is potential to deliver even larger returns as the University still holds an 8 per cent share in Horizon.

Horizon has now raised £13.9m since its first investment in March 2008 and has a further €3.2m committed to it from Europe's four framework grants.

This latest fundraising was the result of a deciding to bring in new investors rather than take a draw down option that was part of the £6.25m deal last year.

The second closing was led by MVM Life Sciences and involved existing investors DFJ Esprit, Roche Venture Fund, Milner, Evans, Peter Collins, Providence Investment Company and David Cleevely.

A number of other board appointments have been made including COO, Dan Cowell and Chris Torrance, previously CEO and now chief scientific officer Peter Keen who takes on the role of part time CFO.