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Cancer T-Cell Start-Up Gains $150 Million in IPO

NASDAQ share price display

(Julien Gong Min, Flickr)

25 June 2018. A three year-old company developing treatments for cancer with engineered T-cells from the immune system raised $150 million in its initial public offering of common stock. On Friday, London-based Autolus Therapeutics issued 8.82 million shares on the NASDAQ exchange priced at $17.00 a share, with the share price that day reaching $29.71, but falling back to $25.075 at the closing bell.

Autolus Therapeutics develops therapies for blood-related and solid tumor cancer that harness T-cells, white blood cells in the immune system, genetically reprogrammed to attack cancer cells. T-cells are usually invoked by the immune system to protect against invading pathogens, but in their natural state, T-cells fail to recognize malignant cancer cells as invaders. Autolus modifies a patient’s own T-cells adding chimeric antigen receptors or CARs, proteins that enable T-cells to act like antibodies, seeking out and killing tumor cells. The company also engineers T-cells to express T-cell receptors, naturally occurring proteins modified to target other characteristic proteins on the surface of cancer cells.

Autolus calls its technology, “next-generation programmed T-cell therapies,” for their more precise targeting and control after administration to patients. While CAR T-cell therapies often return high rates of remission, they also generate high rates of adverse effects that sometimes result in deaths of patients, leading to holds put on clinical trials by FDA. Among the more frequent adverse effects is cytokine release syndrome, a collection of reactions to immunotherapies, where cell signaling proteins are emitted from cells that enhance the treatments, but also lead to symptoms such as nausea, chills, rapid heart rate, weakness, headache, and rash. Autolus says its technology releases cytokine signals inside its reprogrammed T-cells, without invoking cytokines themselves, thus increasing the therapy’s potency while reducing adverse effects.

As reported in Science & Enterprise, Autolus is a spin-off enterprise from University College London, founded in January 2015, and raising more than $45 million at its launch. The company licenses the research discoveries of Martin Pule, a hematologist studying engineered T-cells as cancer treatments, also Autolus’s chief scientist. In April, Autolus reported on an early-stage clinical trial of its treatment for neuroblastoma, a cancer of nerve cells in children. Initial results, says the company, show signs of clinical activity of the treatments, without being toxic to nerve cells.

Autolus is also recruiting participants for three other clinical trials, testing its treatments in patients with blood-related cancers: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The trials are being held in the U.K. and Netherlands.

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