By Mark Terry
Autolus Therapeutics, based in London, UK, announced plans to locate its U.S. headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. In addition to the headquarters, it will have all U.S.-based research and development, commercial and corporate functions and a first full commercial-scale manufacturing center at the location.
The company inked a lease with Alexandria Real Estate Equities for construction and development of an 85,000 square foot build-to-suit facility in the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in Rockville. The company has set up a temporary U.S. headquarters in Rockville until the new facility is ready, which is expected in 2021.
The company is also building out a manufacturing plant in Enfield, UK, expected to open in 2020. It will global commercial viral vector in addition to commercial T-cell therapy products.
“This facility in the United States will be purpose-built to deliver on our commitment to provide advanced T-cell therapies to patients based on a manufacturing process designed to be scalable and economical,” stated Christian Itin, Autolus’ chairman and chief executive officer.
Autolus spun out of the University College of London in 2014, built on the advanced cell programming technology developed by Martin Pule. The company’s focus is on T-cell programming and manufacturing for cancer treatment. The company just listed on the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index as of December 24, 2018.
On December 2, 2018, the company released updated data from its ongoing Phase I/II AMELIA clinical trial of AUTO3 in patients with relapsed/refractory pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (pALL) and its ongoing Phase I/II ALEXANDER clinical trial in patients with relapsed/refractory diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). The company presented the data at the 60th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting held in San Diego.
AUTO3 is a dual-targeted therapy that incorporates two distinct chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).
To incentivize Autolus to set its U.S. operations in Maryland, the Maryland Department of Commerce approved a $525,000 conditional loan through the Advantage Maryland Fund. Montgomery County also provided a $200,000 conditional loan to start the construction project.
Autolus is also eligible for various state and local tax credits, including the Job Creation Tax Credit and the More Jobs for Marylanders Tax Credit.
“Autolus’ decision to locate its new U.S. headquarters and create more than 170 jobs in our state underscores our administration’s promise to continue creating job opportunities for Marylanders, particularly in a field as close to my heart as cancer research,” stated Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. “Our highly educated workforce and proximity to leading federal research labs and world-class universities makes Maryland an outstanding location for global companies looking to establish or grow their U.S. presence in the life sciences and technology sectors.”
Matthias Alder, Autolus senior vice president and chief business officer, told the Washington Business Journal that the new facility is part of the company’s plan to double its workforce from about 200 employees currently to almost 400 in the next 12 to 18 months.
“It’s all driven by the growth of our business operations in terms of our development programs,” Alder told the Journal. “We have seven clinical studies going on parallel and so that requires a lot of development staff but also manufacturing staff to make the product.”
Hiring for the positions has already started, with about 20 people having been hired.