UCL spin-out Achilles Therapeutics to develop immunotherapies for cancer
A new spin-out company Achilles Therapeutics has been launched to develop immunotherapies for cancer, based on the work of scientists from UCL and its associated hospitals.
The new company will bring together world-class research from UCL and the Francis Crick Institute, funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research.
Achilles Therapeutics will design therapies to target truncal tumour neo-antigens – unique flags to the immune system present on the surface of every cancer cell, which were first discovered by Cancer Research UK and scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL Cancer Institute.
Truncal tumour neo-antigens are present on all cancer cells in an individual patient’s tumour but not on healthy cells, so could allow scientists to target and destroy tumours without harming healthy tissues.
Syncona, an investment company and subsidiary of the Wellcome Trust, and Cancer Research Technology, with the support of UCL Business and the Crick, formed Achilles Therapeutics with a successful financing round of £13.2 million led by Syncona with the CRT Pioneer Fund and the UCL Technology Fund.
The company founders bring together world-class capability from three prestigious institutions. They are:
1. Professor Charles Swanton, Group Leader and Royal Society Napier Professor at the Francis Crick and UCL Cancer Institute working on cancer evolution and genome instability and a consultant at UCLH
2. Professor Karl Peggs, Group Leader of the Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Immunotherapy Group at UCL Cancer Institute and a consultant at UCLH
3. Dr Sergio Quezada, Group Leader of the Immune Regulation and Tumour Immunotherapy Group at UCL Cancer Institute
4. Professor Mark Lowdell, Director of the Centre for Cell, Gene & Tissue Therapeutics at the Royal Free Hospital.
CRT will receive equity milestones and royalties from products developed and commercialised by Achilles Therapeutics. Any such financial reward from the company will be shared with UCL Business and the Crick.
Professor Charles Swanton, scientific founder of Achilles Therapeutics and a Group Leader at the Francis Crick Institute, said: “Our research could provide a truly personalised approach to lung cancer therapy by targeting cell surface markers that are specific to each patient and present on all cancer cells rather than just a subset of cells. We’re delighted to be able to bring this exciting science closer to the clinic. We hope to create a new and kinder treatment for this hard-to-treat disease that results in around 36,000 patient deaths each year in the UK.”