Autolus drags on Arix after weak period for CAR-T player

The problems facing chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) startup Autolus Therapeutics have infected one of its key investors, Arix Bioscience. Arix reported a 15% drop in its net asset value (NAV) as a result of the fast-falling share price of the troubled British biotech, which recently delayed multiple cell therapy programs.

Autolus’ share price fell 51% over the course of the first half of Arix’s financial year, causing the NAV of the biotech invest to fall 15% to £231.8 million ($282.8 million). Arix’s stock price has fallen faster than its NAV, dropping 30% in three months. Despite the problems, some observers think Arix is well set to turn things around.  

“With ample cash, reducing opex and multiple catalysts, we see significant potential upside from internal and external technical factors,” analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note to investors.

Arix’s portfolio of biotechs presents it with plenty of opportunities to improve its fortunes. Atox Bio is set to post phase 3 data in necrotising soft tissue infection by the end of the year, with a readout from an acute kidney infection trial to follow in the second half of 2020.

Harpoon Therapeutics, fueled by money from its IPO, is also heading toward a slate of readouts. Data from trials run by Imara, Pharmaxis and Verona Pharma are on the horizon, too.

However, Autolus, the most valuable asset in Arix’s portfolio, remains key to the prospects of the biotech investor. Autolus is set to share data from phase 1 trials of AUTO1 and AUTO3 data by the end of the year, but a delay to manufacturing site qualification and the decision to shift lanes in the face of tough competition in BCMA are holding back the wider portfolio.

Autolus is one of several companies, including Arix, in Neil Woodford’s portfolio that have suffered stock price drops in the wake of the fund manager’s decision to freeze trading in one of his investment vehicles.