September 26, 2017 / 8:18 AM / a year ago

Syncona leads $80 mln round for gene therapy firm Autolus

LONDON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Syncona has led a $80 million investment in Autolus, a company developing gene therapies to treat cancer, the healthcare investment group said on Tuesday.

Gene-modifying immunotherapy is a new type of cancer treatment that harnesses the body’s own immune cells to recognise and attack malignant cells.

The first drug using a new type of gene therapy, developed by Novartis AG to treat leukaemia, was approved in the United States in August.

Autolus is focusing on the same CAR-T cell mechanism, and is aiming to treat acute leukaemia and eventually solid tumours.

“This successful investment round will enable us to evaluate our clinical programs in blood cancers with the goal to establish clinical proof of concept and get our first programs for the treatment of solid tumours to clinical stage using our advanced cell programming technology,” said Christian Itin, chief executive and chairman of Autolus.

As well as Syncona, which invested a fresh $29.2 million, existing investors Arix Bioscience and Woodford Investment Management also participated.

Cormorant Asset Management, Nextech Invest and others contributed $25 million, Syncona said.

Analyst at Jefferies said the new funds would enable Autolus to establish clinical proof of concept for three novel haematological cancer programmes.

“The validation of the progress Autolus has made, with three candidates moving into the clinic, is marked, and conservatively benchmarking against CAR-T peers, could imply a $300 million value for Autolus,” they said.

$1 = 0.7410 pounds Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Jason Neely

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