This morning before U.S. markets opened for trading, London-based
clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Autolus Therapeutics Plc. (AUTL:NASDAQ), which is focused on development of next-generation programmed T cell therapies, announced that it entered into a strategic investment partnership with Blackstone Life Sciences.
The companies stated that under the terms of the strategic collaboration and financing agreement, "funds managed by Blackstone Inc. (BX:NYSE) will provide up to $250 million in equity and product financing to support Autolus' advancement of its CD19 CAR T cell investigational therapy product candidate, obecabtagene autoleucel (obe-cel), as well as next generation product therapies of obe-cel in B-cell malignancies."
The report advised that Blackstone has agreed to invest $150 million in product financing to support the development and commercialization obe-cel. Upon the transaction's closing, Blackstone is required to make a payment to Autolus Therapeutics in the amount of $50 million and up to another $100 million when certain product development and regulatory milestones are met.
In addition, Blackstone agreed to invest $100 million in the Autolus through a private placement purchase of that firm's American Depositary Shares (ADS). The share purchase transaction is expected to close on or around November 12, 2021 and is subject to ordinary closing conditions and in return Blackstone will be awarded the right to nominate a member to Autolus' Board of Directors.
Blackstone commented that it remains strongly committed to the U.K. economy and has been the largest foreign investor in the country over the past 10 years. The company said that to date it has invested over $18 billion in 44 U.K.-headquartered investments that directly support greater than 27,000 jobs.
Dr. Nicholas Galakatos, Global Head of Blackstone Life Sciences stated, "Autolus is a world-class company with an innovative platform and the potential to deliver best-in-class, lifesaving treatments to patients suffering from cancer…Our investment in these next generation cell therapies exemplify our conviction in the quality and promise of the life sciences sector in the UK. We look forward to building on this investment in the years to come."
Autolus Therapeutics' CEO Dr. Christian Itin commented, "We welcome Blackstone Life Sciences to join our drive to change the outlook for leukemia and lymphoma patients, notably those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Blackstone's investment and expertise will support the development and preparation for commercialization of obe-cel and put the program and the Company on a strong financial footing as we are approaching the read-out from the potentially pivotal FELIX clinical trial during the course of 2022."
Blackstone Life Sciences' Sr. Managing Director Nicholas Simon added, "We are excited to collaborate with Autolus in support of their innovative platform pursuing safer, more durable, therapies with the potential to be lifesaving options for patients with ALL and beyond. We see a significant opportunity to improve the outlook for cancer patients who are facing a devastating course of their disease…This investment continues to build on our conviction in not just innovative cell and gene therapies, but also supporting innovation in the U.K. and Europe broadly."
U.K. Science Minister George Freeman remarked, "This is another vote of confidence in the quality of life science in the U.K., reinforcing our reputation as a world leader in discovering new cures for currently untreatable diseases like Autolus' T cell therapy drugs for leukemia. Big investments like these give real hope to those suffering from diseases like leukemia - and create high skill jobs & opportunities in the development and manufacturing of treatments to help develop and boost our life science clusters all around the U.K."
The report indicated that Autolus intends to construct a dedicated 70,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Stevenage, U.K. to prepare for obe-cel's global commercial launch with the ground-breaking ceremony for the new building scheduled to take place today.
The company explained that the Phase 1b/2 FELIX obe-cel clinical trial is currently enrolling approximately 100 adult subject patients with relapsed / refractory ALL at 30 clinical testing centers in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. The firm stated that the Phase 1b portion of the study was short in duration and is now advancing to a single-arm, Phase 2 clinical trial. Autolus advised that the pre-established primary endpoint in the trial is overall response rate. The study is designed to measure several additional key secondary endpoints including duration of response, MRD negative CR rate and overall safety.
Autolus Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical firm headquartered in London that is engaged in the development of next-generation, programmed T cell therapies for treating cancer. The company indicated that it employs a broad suite of proprietary and modular T cell programming technologies that have been engineered to produce controlled and highly active T cell therapies that recognize cancer cells. These precisely targeted T cell therapies are specifically designed to break down the defense mechanisms within cancer cells and then eliminate them.
Autolus mentioned that it has several product candidates in its development pipeline for use in treating hematological malignancies and solid tumors. The firm stated that its "obe-cel (obecabtagene autoleucel) is a CD19 CAR T cell investigational therapy designed to overcome the limitations in clinical activity and safety compared to current CD19 CAR T cell therapies." In addition to Obe-cel, which is presently being evaluated in the Phase 1b/2 FELIX study in treatment of adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), the firm is also working with its academic partner, UCL, on a Phase 1 clinical trial of obe-cel in B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (B-NHL).
Blackstone Life Sciences is an investment group based in Cambridge, Mass. that invests in companies and products of all stages in the life sciences sector. The firm stated that it combines scale investments and hands-on operational leadership to aid in bringing promising new medicines and medical technologies to the market that improves the lives of patients.
Autolus Therapeutics started the day with a market cap of around $405.4 million with approximately 72.9 million shares outstanding and a short interest of about 2.4%. AUTL shares opened 30% higher today at $7.23 (+$1.67, +30.04%) over Friday's $5.56 closing price. The stock has traded today between $6.76 and $7.90 per share and is presently trading at $7.11 (+$1.55, +27.88%).
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