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Horizon Discovery snapped up by US-based PerkinElmer for $383m

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Cell engineering specialist Horizon Discovery is the latest prominent Cambridge name to be snapped up by a US company after PerkinElmer reached a deal to acquire it for $383million (£296million).

The Massachusetts-based corporation, which operates in 150 countries and employs 13,000 people worldwide, expects to close the transaction in the first quarter of 2021.

Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery. Picture: Keith Heppell
Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery. Picture: Keith Heppell

Horizon, headquartered in Waterbeach, rejected a £270million bid from fellow Cambridge life science big hitter Abcam in 2018, saying it undervalued the company.

But it suggested the cash offer from PerkinElmer would accelerate growth.

“We believe that the combination of PerkinElmer’s and Horizon Discovery’s complementary capabilities together with PerkinElmer’s global channel access should accelerate the growth of the combined group and provide opportunities for our employees,” a spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent.

Asked what impact the sale would have on employees, the spokesperson added: “There are no immediate changes and for now it is business as usual.”

Horizon has been led by CEO Terry Pizzie since May 2018 , following the surprise departure two months earlier of Dr Darrin Disley , who now leads Cambridge-based Mogrify.

The future of the leadership team at Horizon has yet to be confirmed.

The Horizon spokesperson said: “PerkinElmer has been clear that the ongoing participation of senior management of Horizon Discovery is very important to the continued success of the combined group. At this stage, however, there are no agreements or arrangements in place between PerkinElmer and Horizon Discovery’s management.”

The name Horizon Discovery remains in place, although the company spokesperson said the longer-term decision on that was in PerkinElmer’s hands.

Non-exec chairman Ian Gilham said: “Horizon has undergone a strategic transformation over the last two years and our reorganised portfolio gives us a strong position in the high-growth markets in which we operate.

Staff at work in one of the Horizon Discovery labs at Cambridge Research Park in Waterbeach. Picture: Keith Heppell
Staff at work in one of the Horizon Discovery labs at Cambridge Research Park in Waterbeach. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The Horizon board believes Horizon is ready to be listed in the US and whilst this should create meaningful value for shareholders in the longer term, a combination with PerkinElmer represents an opportunity for Horizon shareholders to immediately crystallise the value of their investment in cash at a premium of 108.3 per cent. to the current share price.

“In addition, with the support of PerkinElmer, Horizon can accelerate growth and provide customers with a broader and more integrated offering. The Horizon board is therefore unanimously recommending PerkinElmer’s offer.”

PerkinElmer said the acquisition would expand its portfolio of automated life sciences discovery and applied genomics solutions to include gene editing and gene modulation tools. In particular, the addition of CRISPR and RNAi offerings was attractive to the firm, along with the potential to provide next generation cell engineering and customized cell lines for biological models.

President and CEO Prahlad Singh said: “One of the key fundamentals for molecular research and drug discovery is being able to knock down a gene or function and explore the results to discover actionable insights and new clinical trial candidates faster.

“We’re excited to team up with Horizon to not only add CRISPR and RNAi capabilities into our existing portfolio, but also to leverage our combined life sciences screening and applied genomics solutions to help propel the next phase of cell and gene research for precision medicine.

“PerkinElmer leads with science and creates total solutions to bring today’s leading innovations together for our customers, while also working at the cutting edge of what’s next. Today’s announcement delivers on both of these fronts.”

Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery. Picture: Keith Heppell
Terry Pizzie, CEO of Horizon Discovery. Picture: Keith Heppell

PerkinElmer’s life sciences solutions cover early-stage research, drug discovery, drug development and QA/QC for drug manufacturing. Its existing discovery and applied genomics solutions cover immunoassay platforms, high content screening (HCS) and in vivo imaging, along with microfluidics, robotic liquid handling technologies and next-generation sequencing library preparation kits.

Horizon, which employs about 400 employees in UK, the US and Japan and elsewhere, provides reagents, cell models, cell engineering and base editing offerings to help scientists understand gene function, genetic disease drivers and biotherapeutics delivery.

PerkinElmer said unifying the companies’ “complementary offerings across the genotypic and phenotypic approaches for drug discovery and development will help researchers accelerate decision making with better information, automated workflows and greater quality and control over data”.

Horizon reported revenue from continuing operations of £58.3million ($75.5m) in 2019. In August it announced a £4.6million loss for the first half of the year , following the significant impact on revenues from the Covid-19 pandemic, but expected a return to growth for the rest of 2020.

The acquisition implies a total enterprise value of about $368million (£284m) and values the company at 185p per share. The 2018 offer for Horizon, which was withdrawn by Abcam following its rejection, had valued the company at 181p per share.

The US takeover comes in the wake of the $40billion sale of Arm to NVIDIA and sale of Cambridge Science Park-based DisplayLink to Synaptics.

Meanwhile, in August, Babraham-based drug discovery company F-star announced a merger with listed US firm Spring Bank Pharmaceuticals as it plotted a listing on the US technology market NASDAQ.

Last month, Cambridge Biomedical Campus-headquartered Abcam raised $180million through its IPO on NASDAQ.

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