Autolus is a private biotech firm developing Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T Cell immunotherapies - immunotherapies which involve the reprogramming of a patient’s own T Cells to recognise and target cancer cells - formed as a spin-out from University College London (UCL) in September 2014.
The Series B financing completed last week raised £40m through participation by Woodford Investment Management and Perceptive Bioscience Investments, adding to £30m raised in Seed and Series A investment from founding investor Syncona.
“We are delighted that Perceptive Bioscience’s first investment is in a company with the potential to transform cancer therapy,” said Joe Anderson, CEO of Perceptive Bioscience. “Autolus is at the cutting-edge of T-cell engineering to create a new generation of programmed T-cells acting as agents to kill tumour cells.”
The funding will be used to develop the firm’s pipeline of engineered T-cell products which uses T-cell programming technologies developed at UCL and licensed to Autolus.
In parallel with the financing, Autolus’s Chairman Christian Itin announced his firm has: “Expanded the scope of our licence with UCLB [UCL’s technology transfer company] to bring additional inventions from founder Dr Martin Pule’s group into the company adding to the suite of Autolus’ T-cell programming technologies.”
T Cell Space
Autolus was unable to provide further colour when contacted by Biopharma-Reporter, with a spokesperson telling us details of its technologies and strategy remain undisclosed due to the T Cell sector being “a hugely competitive space.”
But speaking last month at the Cell Therapy Manufacturing & Gene Therapy Congress in Brussels, Belgium, Autolus’ Head of Manufacturing Jim Faulkner said his company was lacking the funds to allow it to control its own technology supply chain, leaving the firm vulnerable compared to other T Cell engineering firms.
“Without coming across too envious, there’s a lot of firepower in some of the companies in the US and in the EU as well, but at Autolus we can’t afford that luxury and can’t go out and just acquire technologies,” he said (listen to the audio below, apologies for the quality).
“At this stage we are over-reliant on suppliers and on particular technologies that we are outsourcing and it makes us feel vulnerable, no doubt, as we grow there is a desire to be more in control of the supply chain as I do worry that things can happen that are outside of our control.”
Rival companies such as Novartis, Cellectis, Juno, Transposagen and Kite Therapeutics have been investing in their own technology platforms over the past couple of years, and have attracted a number of Big Biopharma firms – including Pfizer, J&J and AstraZeneca – which are keen to enter the space.