11 August 2020
Avacta Group plc
("Avacta" or "the Group" or "the Company")
Avacta Appoints Therapeutics Chief Development Officer
Avacta has appointed Neil Bell, a highly experienced pharmaceutical and biotech industry executive, to lead the ongoing transition to a clinical stage biotech developing innovative cancer therapies
Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), the developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, is pleased to announce the appointment of Neil Bell as Chief Development Officer of Avacta Life Sciences with immediate effect. Neil will be responsible for late stage pre-clinical and early clinical development of Avacta's pipeline of pre|CISION pro-drugs and Affimer immunotherapies.
Neil has over 30 years' experience in the drug development industry, having held senior positions in global pharmaceutical companies and innovative biotechs. The early part of his career was spent in clinical development at Eisai and Pfizer before becoming Therapeutic Area Head for Gastroenterology and Neurology at Ipsen. In each of these roles he led numerous Phase I to III clinical studies, gaining significant experience across all facets of drug development; from strategy to pre-clinical development, manufacturing and regulatory, to clinical study design and implementation.
In his role as Head of Global Clinical Operations for Teva Pharmaceuticals, Neil led an international team responsible for the delivery of clinical programmes in neurology, autoimmune and oncology therapeutic areas. During this period he contributed to the development of Copaxone achieving leadership in the treatment for multiple sclerosis globally, as well as successfully introducing Azilect to global markets.
Following this period at Teva, Neil joined Daichi-Sankyo as Head of Clinical Operations where he led the clinical operations team through early and late stage development activities across cardiovascular, pain and oncology, and was responsible for building an effective drug development organisation in Europe serving the global clinical programmes and leading to the successful global approval of Edoxaban.
Most recently, Neil held the role of Senior Vice President, Head of Global Clinical Operations at Autolus, a UK cell and gene therapy company backed by Syncona, which listed in the US in 2018 (NASDAQ: AUTL); a process in which Neil played a key role. At Autolus Neil was responsible for building a fully functional global clinical operations team delivering Phase I/II clinical studies across the UK, Europe and US in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, multiple myeloma, B-cell lymphoma, and T-cell lymphoma, and implemented the first commercially sponsored CAR-T study in the UK.
Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive of Avacta Group commented:
"I am absolutely delighted that Neil is joining Avacta as Chief Development Officer to build and lead the development team to take a pipeline of innovative cancer therapies into the clinic over the next few years; therapies that have the potential to significantly enhance cancer patients' lives.
Not only does Neil have tremendous drug development and operational experience, but he also brings significant strategic insight and will be a key member of the senior leadership team driving the Group's drug development and corporate strategy for the therapeutic business.
I am very much looking forward to working with Neil as we continue to transition the business to a clinical stage biotech with multiple clinical programmes in the UK, Europe and the US, building upon the world-class proprietary platforms and assets that we have developed in-house and with partners over the past few years.
It is a very exciting time for Avacta and I look forward to keeping the market updated on progress as we realise the enormous potential in the Group."
Neil Bell, Chief Development Officer of Avacta Life Sciences commented:
"I am delighted to join the therapeutics team at Avacta Life Sciences at such an exciting time in its growth trajectory and where I believe the Company has significant opportunity to build a successful and agile clinical stage biopharmaceutical organisation with the capability to maximise its early development oncology assets for the ultimate benefit of patients. I very much look forward to working closely with Alastair and the therapeutics senior leadership team to establish a leading position for Avacta Life Sciences as a focused immunotherapy oncology company."
For further information from Avacta Group plc, please contact:
Avacta Group plc
Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer
Tony Gardiner, Chief Financial Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 844 414 0452
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About Avacta Group plc - https://www.avacta.com
Avacta is developing novel cancer immunotherapies combining its two proprietary platforms - Affimer® biotherapeutics and pre|CISION™ tumour targeted chemotherapy. With this approach, the Company aims to address the lack of a durable response to current immunotherapies experienced by most patients. The Company's therapeutics development activities are based in Cambridge, UK.
The Company benefits from near-term revenues generated from Affimer reagents for diagnostics, bioprocessing and research, through a separate business unit based in Wetherby, UK.
The Affimer platform is an alternative to antibodies derived from a small human protein. Despite their shortcomings, antibodies currently dominate markets worth in excess of $100bn. Affimer technology has been designed to address many of these negative performance issues, principally: the time taken, and the reliance on an animal's immune response, to generate new antibodies; poor specificity in many cases; large size and cost.
Avacta's pre|CISION targeted chemotherapy platform, releases active chemotherapy only in the tumour, thereby limiting systemic exposure and damage to healthy tissues, and thereby improving the overall safety and therapeutic potential of these powerful anti-cancer treatments.
By combining these two platforms the Company is building a wholly owned pipeline of novel cancer therapies with the aim of creating effective treatments for all cancer patients including those who do not respond to existing immunotherapies. Avacta expects to take its first drug, a pre|CISION targeted form of the standard-of-care Doxorubicin, into the clinic later in 2020 or early 2021.
Avacta has established drug development partnerships with pharma and biotech, including with Moderna Therapeutics Inc., a deal with LG Chem worth up to $310m, a partnership with ADC Therapeutics to develop Affimer drug conjugates and has established a joint venture in South Korea with Daewoong Pharmaceutical focused on cell and gene therapies incorporating Affimer immune-modulators. Avacta actively seeks to license its proprietary platforms in a range of therapeutic areas.
Avacta diagnostics business unit works with partners world-wide to develop Affimers for evaluation by those third parties with the objective of establishing royalty bearing license deals. The Company is also developing a small in-house pipeline of Affimer-based diagnostic assays for licensing.
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