Syncona LLP and Cancer Research Technology (CRT) announce the formation of Achilles Therapeutics Ltd, a private company that will bring together research from UCL (University College London) and the Francis Crick Institute, funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
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 the NIHR University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) funded 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 and CRT, with the support of UCL Business (UCLB) and the Crick, formed Achilles Therapeutics with a successful financing round of £13.2 million ($17.5 million) led by Syncona with the CRT Pioneer Fund and the UCL Technology Fund.
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 UCLB and the Crick.
The company has exclusive rights to develop and commercialise neo-antigen technologies arising from Cancer Research UK’s £14million TRACERx study. This clinical study, involving 850 people with non-small cell lung cancer, tracks the evolution of patients’ cancers over time, in different parts of their tumours and in response to treatment. It receives infrastructure support from the NIHR University College London Hospitals BRC and is being carried out at the Clinical Research Facility at UCLH.
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.”