Biotech Startup Autolus Closes $80 Million for Novel Cancer Program

Biotech Startup Autolus Closes $80 Million for Novel Cancer Program September 26, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

LONDON – Autolus, a portfolio company of U.K.-based Syncona Ltd., closed on $80 million in Series C funding to move its CAR-T treatments into the clinic.

The three-year-old company will use the monies from the latest funding round to develop its CAR-T treatments, including its dual targeting CAR-T cell therapy AUTO3. AUTO3 is an autologous T-cell product targeting the antigens CD19 and CD22, which are expressed by cancer cells in B-cell leukemia and lymphoma.

Autolus initiated Phase I/II dose-escalation studies in pediatric Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) and adult Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) earlier this month. Autolus also has a CAR-T program in development targeting multiple myeloma. The company anticipates moving that program into Phase I by the end of the year.

CAR-T therapies are white hot treatment focuses, particularly since Novartis was the first company to win approval in the United States for its gene therapy cancer treatment, Kymriah. Novartis ’ CAR-T treatment for certain pediatric and young adult patients with a form of ALL is the first therapy based on gene transfer approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

When the Novartis treatment was approved, it was hailed as a revolutionary therapy for cancer, something that Syncona’s Chief Executive Officer Martin Murphy noted as well about CAR-T therapies.

“Autolus is at the forefront of a revolution in cancer treatment that aims to improve the survival of patients. Since Syncona founded the business three years ago it has made excellent progress, and the quality of the institutional investors attracted in this funding round are testament to the strength of the business. We look forward to continuing to support Autolus as it executes its plan to deliver transformational treatments to patients,” Murphy said in a statement.

The $80 million the company received in funding, which includes nearly $30 million from Syncona, will enable Autolus to establish clinical proof of concept for its CAR-T therapies, Autolus CEO Christian Itin said.

Itin was tapped for the CEO position last year in part due to his experience with CAR-T therapies. Prior to joining Autolus, he served as president and CEO at Micromet Inc., which was acquired by Amgen in 2012. While at Micromet, he helmed a team focused on T-cell engaging antibodies, including the ALL program blinatumomab.

Last year, Autolus raised $53 million in a Series B funding round. Since Autolus was founded in 2014 Syncona has contributed approximately $118 million to the company. Syncona owns about 39 percent of Autolus. In addition to Syncona, other contributors to the Series C round include Cormorant Asset Management, Nextech Invest. Autolus has approximately 100 employees.

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