2021-08-03| Licensing

Moderna Banks on Autolus’ Proprietary Tech to Advance Immuno-Oncology Pipeline

by Daniel Ojeda
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UK-based Autolus Therapeutics partners with Moderna, granting the latter an exclusive license to develop new mRNA therapeutics using its proprietary binders. Since the news, Autolus’ stock jumped more than 10%. In comparison, the NASDAQ composite rose by only 0.06% in the same session.

As Moderna is looking beyond COVID-19, it is developing therapeutics to treat a wide range of cancers. Currently, they have five therapies in clinical trials for different solid tumors and hematological malignancies. Their two most advanced therapeutics in this area are mRNA-4157, a personalized cancer vaccine co-developed with Merck, currently in Phase 2 trials.

The second most advanced therapy is mRNA-2416, an immunotherapy that aims to increase the expression of the T cell activator OX40L to induce an attack against the tumor cells. It is currently in Phase 2 trials against ovarian cancer. However, for immunotherapy, it is crucial to modulate the immune reaction to avoid severe adverse effects.


Autolus’ Innovative Technology

In their search to develop novel immunotherapies, Moderna is betting on Autolus’ proprietary binders.

Autolus is a global clinical-stage company specializing in the development of next-generation programmed T cell therapies. They have developed a proprietary viral vector and semi-automated manufacturing process to develop powerful Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) and T cell receptors (TCR). One key differentiated factor in Autolus’ technology is its ability to modulate T cell activity or eliminate their programmed T cells in case of adverse reactions. Their binders are designed to turn off relatively fast to reduce toxicity and avoid T cell exhaustion.  

Currently, they have four therapeutic candidates in clinical trials. Their lead product, AUTO1, is a CD19 CAR T cell therapy that is currently evaluated in two Phase 1 clinical trials, one for pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and another for adult ALL.

Following close is AUTO3, a CD19 & CD22 CAR-T therapy for the treatment of Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma. Another promising candidate is AUTO4, a therapy for T-cell lymphoma targeting TRBC1. The company plans to initiate three more Phase 1 trial in 2021.


Moderna-Autolus Partnership

The agreement allows Moderna to develop and commercialize mRNA therapeutics that incorporate Autolus’ binders for up to 4 targets. Autolus will receive an undisclosed amount upfront for each target, as well as development and commercial payments for milestones. Additionally, Artolus would be entitled to receive royalties for all products commercialized.

“We are pleased that Moderna has selected Autolus as a partner for certain mRNA-based therapeutics in oncology indications,” said Dr. Martin Pulé, founder and chief scientific officer of Autolus. “The use of our technology in Moderna’s mRNA platform underscores Autolus’ leadership in the development of innovative, differentiated binder and cell programming technologies.”

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