Affimers are small, engineered proteins, some of which are of human origin and some of plant origin, and are capable of binding specific molecular targets in a similar way to antibodies.
Avacta in its announcement said it has developed multiple PD-L1 inhibitors as part of its immuno-oncology programme and has selected the most promising candidate to go forward to first-in-man clinical trial in 2019.
It said its technology showed a “clear indication of efficacy” in industry-standard mouse syngeneic models.
The discovery programme is delivering a pipeline of Affimer binders to other important immuno-oncology targets, it added.
Complementing its own in-house programme, Avacta also has a partnership with Moderna Therapeutics, as well as collaborations with the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Newcastle-based Glythera Ltd.
In a comprehensive update, Avacta also reported strong growth in its pipeline of paid-for Affimer-based research with the order book up 64% year-on-year.
“I am delighted that we have been able to report the signing of the first agreement for Affimer product development following a technology evaluation by one of the world's largest diagnostics developers,” said chief executive, Dr Alastair Smith.
“A number of other evaluations are advancing positively and we believe that these will lead to further licensing deals which would result in long term royalty based revenue growth from non-therapeutic applications.”
Financially, the company is making headway with revenues up 27% in the year to July 31 at £2.75mln. The loss was £7.9mln, but more importantly Avacta’s cash position was well ahead of market expectations at £13mln.
The technology in detail
Avacta has developed an innovative protein-scaffold platform, with potential applications in the life sciences research, diagnostic and therapeutic markets.
Named Affimers, the scaffolds are essentially small, engineered proteins, some of which are of human origin and some of plant origin, capable of binding specific molecular targets, in a similar way to antibodies.
However, compared with antibodies, Affimers have several innovative and distinctive features, which could potentially make them a better tool for several diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
They are smaller, quicker to manufacture and easier to format, but they maintain antibody-like biologic activity when binding a target.
In order to maximise the potential of the technology, Avacta is pursuing a development strategy based on two business lines:
- Servicing the life sciences research and diagnostic industry with customised Affimer reagents
- Using Affimers as the core of a potential new generation of drugs
Avacta plans to commercialise Affimer reagents by licensing them to a broad range of clients in the bio-pharmaceutical and diagnostic industry.
“Based on the data generated by the ongoing tests with a wide range of third parties, we believe it is reasonable to expect that the first commercial deal could be signed before the end of 2017,” said Dr Riccardo Lowi, analyst at the research firm Capital Networks.