Cancer Research UK’s spinout, Achilles Therapeutics plc (‘Achilles’), has raised $175.5 million to invest in the development of new cancer immunotherapies through the closing of its initial public offering (IPO).
This milestone marks the ‘birth’ of a company in its public form, opening the company up to public investors and increasing its ability to raise more cash.
“We’re delighted to see Achilles Therapeutics reach this significant milestone in its development.” – Tony Hickson, chief business officer for Cancer Research UK
The cancer immunotherapies being developed by Achilles are based on fundamental discoveries of how cancers develop and evolve made by Cancer Research UK scientists.
As cells become cancerous, they accumulate DNA errors (mutations) that can drive the cell to grow faster or become resistant to treatment.
Some of these errors also result in changes to proteins displayed on the cell’s surface, which can be recognised by the body’s immune system. These targets are not found on healthy cells and are known as neoantigens, presenting an opportunity for cancer therapeutics.
New neoantigens will arise as cancer cells grow and divide, but these will only be present in a subset of cancer cells. To have the biggest impact, scientists need to identify
Achilles uses the principles of tumour evolution to wind back the clock and pick out mutations that arose at the very early stages of cancer development. This allows them to identify neoantigens present on all cancer cells within a tumour – known as clonal tumour neoantigens – and target them using personalised immunotherapies.
“Together with our world-class Cancer Research UK scientists, we formed Achilles with Syncona to drive revolution in cancer treatment using clonal neoantigens to develop personalised T cell therapies,” said Hickson.
Achilles has two ongoing Phase 1/2a trials, including testing an immunotherapy designed to target clonal tumour neoantigens on cancer cells in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer and malignant melanoma that’s come back or spread to other parts of the body.
“Achilles highlights what can be achieved by us working in partnership with venture capital to form spinout companies that have the potential to bring real impact to cancer patients,” added Hickson.
Achilles has entered the world’s second largest stock market, NASDAQ, and its new position on the market is a strong indicator of the companies growing success.
As a developer of cancer therapies, this means Achilles can invest more in their research and development, increasing their capability to develop promising treatments for cancer patients.
The UK-based biotech was initially formed in 2016 by Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team alongside Syncona Ltd, with the support of UCL Business and The Francis Crick Institute.
Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team develops promising ideas into successful cancer therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics and enabling technologies. The team’s deep understanding of both academia and industry enables them to translate research into commercial propositions to deliver patient benefit and commercial value that will support further cancer research. Creating spin-out companies is one of the ways Cancer Research UK gets early stage technology out of the research lab and on to the path to being developed towards a product.
Achilles is one of many spin-outs whose conception has been supported by Cancer Research UK.
The charity has an established track-record with spin-outs, having been involved in the creation of, or supporting our university partners to create, over 43 spin out companies which have secured over £2.3 billion in investment to date.