Autolus seeks $100M IPO to take next-gen CAR-Ts deep into the clinic

Autolus has filed to raise $100 million in a Nasdaq IPO. The British biotech wants the cash to bankroll clinical trials of a clutch of next-generation CAR-Ts designed to broaden the use of cell therapies while improving their safety and efficacy.

London-based Autolus has pulled in more than $170 million in venture funding and established itself in the pack of next-generation CAR-T players on the strength of its technologies, many of which aim to address the shortcomings and limitations of existing cell therapies. 

Armed with these technologies, Autolus has established a pipeline of therapies designed to extend the persistence of CAR-Ts, reduce toxicity, cut relapses and broaden the list of targets addressable by the cells. 

The four Autolus’ candidates in or near the clinic deploy these technologies in an attempt to improve the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia and broaden the use of CAR-Ts to multiple myeloma, peripheral T-cell lymphoma and neuroblastoma. Autolus is yet to generate much clinical data on the assets but aims to establish proof of concept on the anti-CD19 AUTO1 this year.

With the IPO haul set to add to the $129 million Autolus had in the bank at the turn of the year, the biotech expects the proceeds of the listing to take it deep into development. Autolus thinks the IPO will equip it to wrap up phase 1/2 trials of all its current clinical-phase candidates and go on to take two of the assets into late-stage studies. If everything goes to plan, Autolus may advance a drug as far as registration.

Autolus will use some of the IPO monies to prepare for its anticipated first filing. The biotech has developed a semi-automated manufacturing process to support its ongoing trials that it thinks will scale to meet its growing needs. To access the capacity to put that idea to the test, Autolus is set to move into a manufacturing suite at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult in Stevenage, U.K., soon. 

Further down the line, Autolus plans to set up additional production sites in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe. When seen in light of Autolus’ ambition to establish its own commercial infrastructure, the production plan shows the biotech’s appetite to grow into a significant standalone business.

That appetite and, as importantly, the ability to raise money to sate it has been lacking in Europe in the past. But with Autolus benefiting from a hospitable private financing environment to raise $173 million before going after the deep pockets of public investors in the U.S., it may have the means to execute the strategy. The first step is to pull off an IPO despite having limited clinical data.