Special Edition: BioPharma Hubs

UK biotech investment shows no sign of slowing down

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/ktsimage
© GettyImages/ktsimage

Related tags: cell and gene therapies, CAR T cell therapy, Cancer

Autolus Therapeutics becomes the latest biotech located in the UK’s ‘golden triangle’ to receive significant investment.

The London-based biotech struck an agreement with Blackstone Life Sciences for a collaboration and financing deal that will see the latter company provide $250m (€215m) of investment.

According to the partners, the capital injection will be used to support the development of Autolus’ CD19 CAR-T cell investigational therapy product candidate, obecabtagene autoleucel (obe-cel).

The funding is broken down into two separate blocks, with $150m going towards the financing of obe-cel development and commercialization, with $50m of this being paid upon completion of the transaction and the rest of the sum being payable on development and regulatory milestones.

The rest of the $100m of funding will see Blackstone purchase Autolus’ American Depositary Shares. As part of the deal, Blackstone will be able to nominate a member to Autolus’ board of directors.

On the same day as the funding announcement, Autolus was also busy breaking ground on its new manufacturing facility that will be built in Stevenage, UK.

The 70,000-square-foot location will provide commercial launch capacity for obe-cel, with existing clinical trial manufacturing capacity transitioning from the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult facility, which is also located in Stevenage, upon completion. Once operational, the site will provide approximately 2,000 batches per year.

UK investment continues

Blackstone stated that it has invested more than $18bn into 44 separate investments on UK shores over the last 10 years, making it the UK’s biggest foreign investor in that period.

A spokesperson for the private investment platform told BioPharma-Reporter that the reason for specifically investing in Autolus was because the biotech is a ‘world leader’ in CAR-T therapies.

The combination of its innovative platform, access to top talent, and potential to deliver best-in-class, lifesaving treatments to patients suffering from cancer, made this the right investment for Blackstone,”​ the spokesperson continued.

In terms of why Blackstone has focused on investing in the UK, the spokesperson stated that there is a lack of ‘late-stage capital’ for companies working in the life sciences in the country, despite the country’s ‘long history of innovation’.

It was reported that the UK biotech sector received record levels of investment​ in the first three quarters of 2021. According to the BioIndustry Association (BIA), a total of $3.8bn was raised by UK biotechs during this period.

However, this was driven by an “appetite for early innovative assets by big pharma,”​ said Mike Ward, head of thought leadership, life sciences & healthcare at Clarivate, which worked with BIA on the report. The increase investment also came in a period where global investment in the biotech sector is on track to surpass last year’s figures.

BioPharma-Reporter is running a free to access webinar​ on December 1 exploring the hurdles that exist to bringing cell and gene therapy mainstream. 

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