Autolus buckles down, chopping 20% of staff and seeking partner for a lead CAR-T program
Autolus Therapeutics showed up at the virtual ESMO conference just a few months ago with plenty of good things to say about AUTO3, its dual-targeting CAR-T for diffuse large B cell lymphoma. The safety data looked intact, and the therapy promised to be more durable than the first-generation options.
But early Wednesday the London-based biotech said it will be looking for a partner to take it from here — and letting go of 20% of its staffers in the process.
Also going out the door are Adam Hacker, global head of regulatory affairs and quality, and Nushmia Khokhar, head of clinical development/drug safety. Autolus said it will be looking for a new CMO while David Brochu gets promoted to chief technical officer.
By prioritizing AUTO1, the lead program currently in a pivotal study for adult patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Autolus noted it’s tapping into a big commercial opportunity. The key data are expected in 2022.
CEO Christian Itin highlighted the therapy’s “unique characteristics” as reported recently at ASH, “with some patients continuing in molecular complete remission at 24 months without a subsequent transplant, an event-free survival of 52% at 12 months and a well-tolerated safety profile.”
“We also plan to capitalize on the differentiated profile of AUTO1 by exploring activity in additional B-cell malignancies, including Primary CNS Lymphoma (PCNSL) where no adequate standard of care currently exists,” he added in a statement. “We expect to see first data from these additional indications in 2021.”
Two other clinical programs remain alongside a slate of next-gen, preclinical constructs in the pipeline. Like AUTO3, AUTO1/22 targets both CD19 and CD22 but it’s based on AUTO1. AUTO4, meanwhile, is designed for peripheral T cell lymphoma.
Going forward, Autolus expects the new focus and structure to save $15 million per year.
As of Sept. 30, Autolus reported a reserve of $177.7 million. But it also burned through $120 million (including $96 million in R&D expenses) during those nine months, which may explain a need to buckle down until Itin gets his wins in the clinic in 2021 and 2022.