Achilles was founded on Cancer Research UK-funded research carried out by Professor Charles Swanton of the Francis Crick Institute, UCL Cancer Institute, and UCLH, and Professors Sergio Quezada and Karl Peggs of the UCL Cancer Institute.
Achilles is a clinical-stage immuno-oncology biopharmaceutical company developing precision T cell therapies to treat multiple types of solid tumours.
Its approach centres around targeting clonal tumour neoantigens. These are mutations formed early in the development of a cancer that give rise to antigens that are expressed on every single cancer cell but are absent from healthy tissue.
Targeting clonal neoantigens has the potential to reduce the risk of new mutations, which can help the cancer evade the immune system or develop resistance to treatments, occurring.
Since every cancer has a unique set of neoantigens, Achilles’ approach involves generating a personalised T cell product for each patient to target and destroy tumours potentially without harming healthy tissue.
Achilles currently has two ongoing Phase I/IIa trials, including a study of a clonal neoantigen T cell therapy in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
Veronique Birault, director of translational science at the Crick, says: “This is an exciting step in the journey of Achilles Therapeutics, a clinical stage company closely linked to the Crick. It is a stand-out example of how scientists and industry can work together to turn scientific understanding of health and disease into potential new treatments that could make a real difference to the lives of patients.”
Professor Geoff Bellingan, medical director, surgery and cancer board at UCLH, said: “This is an exciting moment for our research in this area, and this investment ultimately brings us closer to being able to offer these precision therapies which represent truly personalised care to our patients. These therapies are vital due to the current lack of treatment options for some of our patients with advanced cancers. Their development shows what can be achieved when clinicians, scientists, research staff and industry work together.”
Tony Hickson, chief business officer for Cancer Research UK, says: “We’re delighted to see Achilles Therapeutics reach this milestone. Together with our world-class Cancer Research UK scientists, we formed Achilles with Syncona to drive a revolution in cancer treatment using clonal neoantigens to develop personalised T cell therapies.
“Achilles highlights what can be achieved by us working in partnership with venture capital to form companies that have the potential to bring real impact to cancer patients.”
The company was formed in 2016 by Cancer Research UK’s Commercial Partnerships team alongside Syncona Ltd, with the support of the Crick and UCL Business.
Achilles’ IPO in the United States of 9,750,000 American Depositary Shares (“ADSs”) representing 9,750,000 ordinary shares raised total gross proceeds of $175.5 million.