Syncona, Cancer Research Technology Launch Achilles With $17.5 Million

Syncona, Cancer Research Technology Launch Achilles Therapeutics With $17.5 Million October 5, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

LONDON – Another company is testing its foot in the immuno-therapy waters. Achilles Therapeutics, a private company with a focus to develop therapies targeting truncal tumors neo-antigens, launched this morning with $17.5 million in funding. Achilles’ funding was backed by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research.

The new company was jointly announced this morning by healthcare investment company Syncona and Cancer Research Technology (CRT), a subsidiary of Cancer Research UK.

Achilles launches with exclusive rights to develop and commercialize neo-antigen technologies from Cancer Research UK’s TracerX Study of 850 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. Truncal tumor neo-antigens are present on all cancer cells in an individual patient’s tumor but not on healthy cells. That is something that could allow scientists to target and destroy tumors without harming healthy tissues, Achilles said in a statement.

The truncal tumor neo-antigens were initially discovered by the combined research efforts from Cancer Research UK and the NIHR University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) funded scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL Cancer Institute, Cancer Research UK said in a statement this morning.

“We’re delighted to be able to bring this exciting science closer to the clinic. We hope to create a new and kinder treatment for this hard-to-treat disease that results in around 36,000 patient deaths each year in the UK,” Charles Swanton, scientific founder of Achilles Therapeutics and professor at the Crick Institute, said in a statement. “Our research could provide a truly personalized approach to lung cancer therapy by targeting cell surface markers that are specific to each patient and present on all cancer cells rather than just a subset of cells.”

Iraj Ali, director of Achilles Therapeutics, said the research conducted by the new company will be capable of exploiting “the confluence of two of the most exciting and innovative fields in healthcare today: cancer bioinformatics and immuno-therapy.”

The new company will be helmed by Chris Ashton, a partner at Syncona. Ashton formerly served as chief executive officer of Argenta Discovery LTD and its successor company, Pulmagen Therapeutics Limited. According to his bio on the Syncona website, during his time at Pulmagen he was able to transition the company “from an early stage drug discovery company to a mid-stage clinical development organization.” Ashton said the formation of Achilles brings together “committed investors and leading health institutes” to combat cancer. He said bringing together the resources of the different groups, such as CRT and the Crick Institute, “holds great promise for non-small cell lung cancer patients.”

The initial round of financing was led by Syncona, UCL Business and the Crick Institute. Under terms of the new company, CRT will receive equity milestones and royalties from products developed and commercialized by Achilles Therapeutics.

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