Next-gen CAR-T, TCR play­er Au­to­lus gains $80M for clin­i­cal tri­al work

Mar­tin Pule

Au­to­lus has gone back to the well to draw up an $80 mil­lion C round de­signed to push the next-gen CAR-T play­er through a key test for its three lead pro­grams.

While look­ing to even­tu­al­ly leapfrog the lead­ing pi­o­neers like No­var­tis, which achieved the first OK for CAR-T just months ago, Au­to­lus has its sights set on es­tab­lish­ing proof-of-con­cept da­ta on three pro­grams: AU­TO2 in mul­ti­ple myelo­ma, AU­TO3 in dif­fuse large B cell lym­phoma and pe­di­atric acute lym­phoblas­tic leukemia and AU­TO4 in T-cell lym­phoma.

The first CAR-Ts have es­tab­lished some jaw-drop­ping re­sults in blood can­cers, but sol­id tu­mors re­main a big chal­lenge. Au­to­lus is one of a num­ber of up­start biotechs that think bet­ter tech­nol­o­gy — like its pat­tern recog­ni­tion tech — can make for a much bet­ter CAR-T or T cell re­cep­tor ther­a­py per­son­al­ized for each pa­tient. These new cell ther­a­pies, they be­lieve, will al­low the field to start treat­ing sol­id tu­mors while al­so im­prov­ing new stan­dards of care in hema­to­log­i­cal ma­lig­nan­cies.

It’s a big bet, with lots at stake as on­col­o­gy re­mains the sin­gle biggest field in biotech for VCs in­vest­ing in R&D.

Chris­t­ian Itin

Cor­morant As­set Man­age­ment, Nex­tech In­vest and oth­er new in­vestors joined found­ing in­vestor Syn­cona, Wood­ford In­vest­ment Man­age­ment and Ar­ix Bio­science in the round.

Au­to­lus was spun out of the lab of Mar­tin Pule at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Years ago Pule got a chance to help with some of the pi­o­neer­ing re­search go­ing in­to reengi­neer­ing T cells in­to can­cer ther­a­pies at Mal­colm Bren­ner’s lab at Bay­lor Uni­ver­si­ty in Texas. And now the three-year-old com­pa­ny has raised a to­tal of $185 mil­lion to test what it hopes will be a safer ap­proach to au­tol­o­gous T cell ther­a­pies (which are ex­tract­ed from pa­tients, en­gi­neered and then in­ject­ed) for hema­to­log­i­cal and sol­id tu­mors.

CEO Chris­t­ian Itin — who ran Mi­cromet up un­til its sale — had this to say:

Since our in­cep­tion three years ago, Au­to­lus has made sub­stan­tial progress with two dual tar­get­ing pro­grams in three clin­i­cal stud­ies, a nov­el pro­gram for T-cell lym­phoma’s clin­ic ready and a unique suite of cell pro­gram­ming tech­nolo­gies es­tab­lished for use in haema­to­log­i­cal and sol­id can­cers. With the new fi­nanc­ing we are well on our way to build­ing a pre­mier ful­ly in­te­grat­ed On­col­o­gy Com­pa­ny that har­ness­es the unique pow­er of T cells to com­bat can­cer.

At the In­flec­tion Point for the Next Gen­er­a­tion of Can­cer Im­munother­a­py

While oncology researchers have long pursued the potential of cellular immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer, it was unclear whether these therapies would ever reach patients due to the complexity of manufacturing and costs of development. Fortunately, the recent successful development and regulatory approval of chimeric antigen receptor-engineered T (CAR-T) cells have demonstrated the significant benefit of these therapies to patients.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO

'This is not go­ing to be good': Mod­er­na CEO Ban­cel warns of a 'ma­te­r­i­al drop' in vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy as Omi­cron spreads

Even as public health officials remain guarded about their comments on the likelihood Omicron will escape the reach of the currently approved Covid-19 vaccines, there’s growing scientific consensus that we’re facing a variant that threatens to overwhelm the vaccine barricades that have been erected.

Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, one of the leading mRNA players whose quick vault into the markets with a highly effective vaccine created an instant multibillion-dollar market, added his voice to the rising chorus early Tuesday. According to Bancel, there will be a significant drop in efficacy when the average immune system is confronted by Omicron. The only question now is: How much?

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Ap­peals court puts the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin for Tec­fidera patent, adding to Bio­gen's bur­geon­ing set­backs

In another setback for Biogen, the big biotech lost its appeal to revive a patent for the once-blockbuster drug Tecfidera, marking a likely conclusion to the case.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued the ruling Tuesday morning, saying Biogen failed to satisfy the “written description” requirement for patent law. As a result, Mylan-turned-Viatris will be able to sell its multiple sclerosis generic without fear of infringement and Biogen will have to find a new revenue driver elsewhere.

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Philip Dormitzer, new GSK global head of vaccines R&D

Glax­o­SmithK­line poach­es Pfiz­er's vi­ral vac­cines lead in rush to cap­i­tal­ize on fu­ture of mR­NA

GlaxoSmithKline has appointed Philip Dormitzer, formerly chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s viral vaccines unit, as its newest global head of vaccines R&D, looking to leverage one of the leading minds behind Pfizer and BioNTech’s RNA collaboration that led to Covid-19 jab Comirnaty, the British drug giant said Tuesday.

Dormitzer had been with Pfizer for a little more than six years, joining up after a seven-year stint with Novartis, where he reached the role of US head of research and head of global virology for the company’s vaccines and diagnostics unit.

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In­tro­duc­ing End­points Stu­dio, a new way to ad­ver­tise with End­points-craft­ed brand­ing cam­paigns

Since our start in 2016, Endpoints has grown fast while executing our mission to cover biopharma’s most critical developments for industry pros worldwide. As readership has grown, our advertising business has too. Endpoints advertising partners support the mission and engage their desired audiences through announcements on our email and web platforms, brand recognition in our event coverage and sponsorships of Endpoints daily and weekly reports.

Tillman Gerngross (Adagio)

Till­man Gern­gross on Omi­cron: 'It is a grim sit­u­a­tion...we’re go­ing to see a sig­nif­i­cant drop in vac­cine ef­fi­ca­cy'

Tillman Gerngross, the rarely shy Dartmouth professor, biotech entrepreneur and antibody expert, has been warning for over a year that the virus behind Covid-19 would likely continue to mutate, potentially in ways that avoid immunity from infection and the best defenses scientists developed. He spun out a company, Adagio, to build a universal antibody, one that could snuff out any potential mutation.

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In­cor­po­rat­ing Ex­ter­nal Da­ta in­to Clin­i­cal Tri­als: Com­par­ing Dig­i­tal Twins to Ex­ter­nal Con­trol Arms

Most drug development professionals are familiar with the nerve-racking wait for the read-out of a large trial. If it’s negative, is the investigational therapy ineffective? Or could the failure result from an unforeseen flaw in the design or execution of the protocol, rather than a lack of efficacy? The team could spend weeks analyzing data, but a definitive answer may be elusive due to insufficient power for such analyses in the already completed trial. These problems are only made worse if the trial had lower enrollment, or higher dropout than expected due to an unanticipated event like COVID-19. And if a trial is negative, the next one is likely to be larger and more costly — if it happens at all.

Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Ab­b­Vie’s Hu­mi­ra TV turns fo­cus to HS skin con­di­tion; Sanofi amps par­ent­ing pol­i­cy

After years as the top spending pharma TV advertiser, AbbVie’s Humira brand finally downshifted earlier this year, ceding much of its marketing budget to up-and-coming sibling meds Skyrizi and Rinvoq. However, now Humira is back on TV with ads for another condition — Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS).

The chronic and painful skin condition results in lumps and abscesses caused by inflammation or infection of sweat glands, most often in the armpits or groin. Humira was first approved to treat HS in 2015 and remains the only FDA-approved drug for the condition. Two TV ads both note more than 30,000 people with HS have been prescribed Humira.

As lead drug runs in­to a wall, De­ci­phera slims down its pipeline, puts 140 jobs on the chop­ping block

Barely a month after disappointing data shattered hopes for a major label expansion for the GI tumor drug Qinlock, Deciphera is making a major pivot — scrapping development plans for that drug and discarding another while it hunkers down and focuses on two remaining drugs in the pipeline.

As a result, 140 of its staffers will be laid off.

The restructuring, which claims the equivalent of 35% of its total workforce, will take place across all departments including commercial, R&D as well as general and administrative support functions, Deciphera said, as it looks to streamline Qinlock-related commercial operations in the US while concentrating only on a “select number of key European markets.”

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