Achilles Therapeutics, a company built on the research of Crick group leader Charlie Swanton and Sergio Quezada at the UCL Cancer Institute, has raised £100 million in new investment.
This will support human trials of a new immunotherapy approach for non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma, which are due to start later this year, as well as developing the company's manufacturing and development capabilities.
The latest investment is led by US investor RA Capital Management, working with founding investor Syncona and new investors including Forbion, Invus, Perceptive Advisors and Redmile Group.
The company was founded in 2016, after Charlie and Sergio's team discovered unique markers on the surface of cancer cells that aren't on healthy cells. These 'truncal neoantigens' are specific to every patient's cancer, and present on all tumour cells, so any treatment must be personalised to the genetic makeup of the tumour. The hope is that these markers can be selectively targeted by specially-designed immune cells, to kill cancer without harming healthy cells.
"This transformational new investment will help us to take our science from bench to bedside, where we ultimately hope to help patients," says Charlie. "I'm excited to take our research to the next stage, and it is truly humbling to see the extent to which expert investors believe in our approach. It is also a testament to the quality of UK life sciences sector that such a new company can attract this level of outside investment."
“Achilles is leading the next wave of immuno-oncology drug development," said Dr Iraj Ali, CEO of Achilles Therapeutics. "We have moved from concept to clinic-ready in less than three years. We are extremely pleased to welcome this excellent group of new investors to Achilles and I would like to personally thank our existing founding investors for their continued support. With this fundraising we have made a clear statement about the scale and nature of our ambitions to bring novel cancer therapies rapidly to patients with a high unmet medical need.”