IPO bonanza continues with $150M listing for CAR-T player Autolus

Biotech IPOs continue to come thick and fast this week, with U.K. T-cell therapy specialist Autolus the latest to list with an impressive $150 million raise.

Like a lot of the latest IPOs, London-based Autolus—which will trade under the AUTL ticker symbol—has smashed its earlier $100 million target with its $17-per-share listing and adds to around $170 million in venture funding raised since it was set up in 2014.

The IPO gives it the financial muscle to push forward with its new generation CAR-T candidates on a broad front, with several therapies in or starting clinical trials within the next few months. The company says its approach to CAR-T can improve its performance by helping T cells stay functional in the body for longer, reduce the toxicity of treatment, and extend the use of the technique to new forms of cancer.

Autolus’ lead project is a CAR-T in a phase 1 trial in pediatric relapsed or refractory acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) targeting CD19—the same target as already-approved CAR-Ts from Novartis and Gilead/Kite—and it’s also planning early-stage trials for therapies targeting CD19/CD22 and BCMA in lymphomas and multiple myeloma, respectively. Interestingly, CD22 is being explored as a possible rescue therapy for patients who don’t respond to CD19-directed CAR-Ts.

In early 2019, the biotech intends to have proof-of-concept data for no fewer than four of its CAR-Ts in blood cancers, and it’s also making headway in solid tumors—still very much an untapped area for CAR-Ts. Its GD2-targeting therapy is already in a phase 1 trial being run by medical charity Cancer Research UK in neuroblastoma patients, and Autolus is developing an improved version that should start phase 1/2 testing in 2020.

At the end of last year, Autolus was sitting on cash of around $130 million, and the company says the new cash injection will allow it to complete its proof-of-concept studies for all five clinical-stage candidates and take three of them into later-stage testing. Importantly, it will also give it resources to start developing manufacturing capacity to support larger-scale trials and future commercial launches—always a big consideration for companies developing cell-based therapies.

The estimated breakdown of costs runs as follows: around $85 million for its proof-of-concept studies, $50 million for manufacturing and another $31 million for nonclinical R&D projects, according to the latest version of its IPO prospectus.

Also benefiting from Autolus going public is U.K. venture group Woodford Patient Capital Trust, which said the value of its stake in the company has risen 51% to almost $105 million, upping its net asset value by around 3%.

Autolus is the seventh biotech to go public in the last two days, with the group collectively raising $718 million just ahead of the summer lull.