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