Spinout News / UCLB News

Syncona LLP and UCLB announce the formation of Autolus Limited, a cancer immunotherapy company

22 January 2015

Autolus logo

Syncona LLP (“Syncona”) and UCL Business PLC (“UCLB”), the wholly-owned technology transfer company of University College London (“UCL”), announce the creation of Autolus Limited (“Autolus”), a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialisation of next-generation engineered T-cell therapies for haematological and solid tumours. Autolus is founded upon the work of Dr Martin Pule, an academic clinical haematologist and thought-leader in T-cell engineering. Syncona has committed £30m to Autolus in a Series A financing. Dr Christian Itin, former CEO of Micromet and a leader in the cancer immunotherapy field, has joined the company as Chairman.

Recent clinical trials of engineered T-cell treatments for haematological malignancies performed by various groups suggest that chimeric antigen receptor (“CAR”) T-cells have the potential to transform cancer therapy. Realisation of that potential will require innovative technologies to program the properties of T-cells to increase efficacy and safety, and to access tumour types which are not addressable with the current generation of CAR T-cell technology. Autolus is a next-generation engineered T-cell company, developing a series of CAR T-cell products based on its proprietary targets, constructs and technologies.

Martin Pule, Chief Scientific Officer of Autolus and Senior Lecturer at the UCL Cancer Institute and NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, commented: “It is exciting to be involved in Autolus, where we have an opportunity to bring innovative new therapeutic approaches to patients who often have no alternative treatment path. The key will be to remain at the cutting-edge of T-cell engineering to create a new generation of programmed T-cells acting as autonomous agents to kill tumour cells. What we’ve seen so far in the CAR T-cell field is only the beginning.

Christian Itin, Chairman of Autolus, said: “A key element of Autolus’ strategy is to progress CAR T-cell products quickly into clinical trials, leveraging our strong partnership with UCL. The company has engaged a team of thought-leading academics in London as advisors, and will perform its Phase 1 clinical studies and manufacturing within the academic infrastructure of the city, including the integrated cancer clinical trials infrastructure at University College Hospital and the expert cell therapy manufacturing facility at the UCL Institute of Child Health and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Edward Hodgkin, Partner with Syncona LLP and Chief Executive Officer of Autolus, added: “Autolus is a great fit with Syncona’s strategy. We are focussed on building companies in areas of cutting-edge science with the potential to deliver extreme efficacy to patients. CAR T-cell products have the potential to transform cancer therapy, and we expect Autolus to be at the forefront of a revolution in medicine in which human cells are used to treat disease. We have a very talented team and are delighted to have attracted Christian Itin to act as Chairman of the Company.

Cengiz Tarhan, Managing Director of UCLB, said: “UCL is a world leader in the biomedical sciences, with an unremitting commitment to outstanding research and translation into healthcare benefits for patients. It is exciting to support these breakthrough treatments being taken forward in a commercial environment in a way that may benefit patients globally. The formation of Autolus represents the culmination of several years of research in the laboratories of Martin Pule and his collaborators drawing on funding from multiple government and charitable sources. UCLB are delighted to be able to partner with Syncona to launch Autolus.

Further information:

Autolus & Syncona
Edward Hodgkin
+44 (0)20 7611 2031

Julia Wilson – JW Communications
+44 (0)7818 430877

Emma Alam
+44 (0)20 7679 9798

Henry Rummins
+44 (0)20 7679 9063

Notes for Editors:

About Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) Immunotherapy
CAR immunotherapy involves re-programming a patient’s immune system to kill tumour cells. T-cells are extracted from a patient’s blood, manipulated outside the body to incorporate the CAR gene, and then returned to the patient by infusion. The CAR gene introduces a targeting mechanism to the T-cells, enabling them to recognise, engage and destroy tumour cells in a highly-specific manner. Initial clinical trials of CAR T-cells in B-cell malignancies, including acute lymphoblastic leukemia (“ALL”), suggest that this approach may transform treatment of cancer patients, many of whom have no other therapeutic options.

About Autolus
Autolus is a private biopharmaceutical company, focused on the development and commercialisation of engineered T-cell immunotherapy products with extreme efficacy in treatment of life-threatening cancers. Using its proprietary platform, Autolus is developing next-generation engineered CAR T-cell products, and is positioned to be a leader in the use of human cells to treat disease. It is expected that this platform will provide a source of sustainable competitive advantage in both haematological and solid cancers, most of which are not addressable using the current CAR technology. Autolus’ shareholders include Syncona LLP and UCL Business PLC.

For further information please visit the Company’s website at: www.autolus.com

About Syncona
Syncona LLP was founded in 2012 and operates as an evergreen investment company, taking an active role in identifying, developing and funding technologies with the potential to significantly impact the healthcare market of the future.  Syncona can take the long view when necessary, able to concentrate investment into opportunities as technology is validated. Syncona is a subsidiary the Wellcome Trust that invested the initial £200m capitalisation.

For further information please visit the Company’s website at: www.synconapartners.com

About UCL Business PLC
UCL Business PLC (UCLB) is a leading technology transfer company that supports and commercialises research and innovations arising from UCL, one of the UK’s top research-led universities. UCLB has a successful track record and a strong reputation for identifying and protecting promising new technologies and innovations from UCL academics. UCLB has a strong track record in commercialising medical technologies and provides technology transfer services to UCL’s associated hospitals; University College London Hospitals, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the Royal Free London Hospital. It invests directly in development projects to maximise the potential of the research and manages the commercialisation process of technologies from laboratory to market.

For further information, please visit: www.uclb.com

About UCL
Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world’s top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has almost 29,000 students from 150 countries and in the region of 10,000 employees.

For further information, please visit: www.ucl.ac.uk

The Funders
The work of Dr Pule’s team has been supported by multiple government and charitable sources including Cancer Research UK Centre for Drug Development, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, The Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund, the Neuroblastoma Society, the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, University College London Hospitals, the UCL Therapeutic Innovation Fund, the UCLB Proof of Concept Fund and the European Union framework 6 and 7 programmes.. In addition to the funding, UCLB have in licenced intellectual property from Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology Ltd, to support aspects of the programme.