UCL spin-out Achilles Therapeutics, a biotech company that develops new immunotherapies that target the improved treatment of tumours without harming healthy tissue, has successfully raised $175.5m (£127.2m) through its initial public offering.
Achilles is a spinout formed in 2016 by Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team alongside Syncona, with the support of UCL Business, the commercialisation arm of UCL and a part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise, and The Francis Crick Institute.
The successful close of Achilles’ Nasdaq IPO continues UCL’s leading track record of supporting spinout companies to this investment stage. In addition to Achilles, it has seen four other biotech spinouts achieve public listings since June 2018 which have raised a total of over £1.5bn in external investment. An IPO is the process of tendering shares in a company to raise capital from public investors.
Achilles’ therapeutic approach is to target clonal tumour neoantigens. These are unique flags to the immune system present on the surface of every cancer cell, which were first discovered by the ground-breaking research of Cancer Research researchers supported by the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre at UCLH and UCL.
Since every cancer has a unique set of neoantigens, Achilles’ therapeutic approach involves generating a personalised T cell product for each patient to target and destroy tumours without harming healthy tissue.
Targeting clonal neoantigens that are present on all cancer cells within an individual’s tumour, but not on healthy cells, has the potential to reduce the risk of new mutations occurring that can induce immune evasion and treatment resistance.
Achilles has two ongoing phase I/II trials, including a study of a clonal neoantigen T cell therapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer which dosed its first patient in June 2020.
Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation and Global Engagement), said:
"This is a significant milestone for Achilles Therapeutics and its development of immunotherapies with the potential to improve the lives of cancer patients. We are proud of the role that UCL, working alongside Cancer Research UK, the Francis Crick Institute and Syncona, has been able to play. UCL’s research community is responsible for generating outstanding new knowledge, and UCL has demonstrated its consistently leading ability to ensure this goes on to impact and improve our society."
Dr Anne Lane, CEO of UCL Business, said:
"We’re delighted to see Achilles Therapeutics announce its successful Nasdaq debut today. This important company milestone marks the fifth IPO that we’ve seen arising from UCL’s research base, in the past three years. It’s a testament to the talented research arising from UCL, and another step towards making advancements in patient care."
The successful Nasdaq listing by Achilles also follows the results this week of the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF), which saw UCL listed in the highest possible band for ’Research Partnerships’, ’Intellectual Property and Commercialisation’ and ’Public and Community Engagement’.