New UK Hero Will Fight Against Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Achilles Therapeutics was born yesterday in the UK with a €15M funding round. The company will focus on the development of personalized neo-antigentherapies for non-small lung cancer.

The newborn Achilles Therapeutics made its debut yesterday with a splashy fundraising round and a licensing agreement. The startup has exclusive rights to develop and commercialize any neo-antigen technology that arises from the €16M non-small cell lung cancer TRACERx study. The trial is under the supervision of Cancer Research UK and tracks the state of 850 patients and their response to treatments.

The company has set itself on solid ground. Its founders are 4 oncology research leaders from UCL and the Crick Institute, and it is supported financially by Syncona, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) Pioneer Fund and the UCL Technology Fund. CRT will receive milestones and royalties from any developed and commercialized products. The funds will be shared with UCL and the Crick Institute to boost their research.

This new start-up aims to design and develop therapies against truncal tumor neo-antigens. These are surface molecules that can be found on all cancer cells but not on healthy ones and are specific for each patient. It’s then obvious why their investors are head over heels on neo-antigens.

Achilles Therapeutics targets Lung Cancer
Figure 1. Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for up to 90% of all lung cancers and can be particularly difficult to treat with conventional treatments like chemotherapy

However, there’s already plenty of competition for Achilles Therapeutics. BioNTech, Europe’s largest private Biotech, has a similar cancer vaccine platform to identify tumor mutations and use them as neo-antigen targets. Their technology caught the attention of the giant Genentech, and they recently established a partnership.

In the field of lung cancer, Achilles will compete with OSE Pharma and PharmaMar, both already in Phase III trials. The new company will also have it difficult to get hard on the heels of the big players; AstraZeneca, Roche, Merck and Bristol-Meyers Squibb are already experienced in lung-cancer therapies.

For now, the main advantage of the new Biotech seems to be its access to the results of the TRACERx study by Cancer Research UK. But given the advanced state of its many competitors, we’ll probably have to cool our heels until the young Achilles finally catches up with them. We wish them good luck!

Images via Nando Machado, BlueRingMedia /Shutterstock

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