Dr Jose Saro is joining the business from the Roche Innovation Center, Zurich, where he focused on immuno-oncology and the development of products that work in combination to treat illnesses.
As well as holding senior roles at Bristol Myers Squibb and Novartis, he also has “experience of the small biotech environment”, having headed the research and development team at a company called PharmaMar.
“Jose joins Avacta at a hugely exciting time as we progress towards the first Affimer clinical studies, which is a significant value inflection point for both the technology and group,” said chief executive Alastair Smith.
“We very much look forward to working with Jose on our established programmes and on leveraging his knowledge to expand the pipeline of innovative and valuable immuno-oncology assets for the future."
Avacta creates and develops Affimers, which are small, engineered proteins, which are either human in origin, or plant-derived. They are capable of binding to specific molecular targets in a similar way to antibodies.
That said, Affimers are smaller, quicker to manufacture and easier to format than antibodies, but maintain antibody-like biologic activity when binding a target.
One of the 2018 milestones
In a note to clients, analyst Mark Brewer at ‘house’ broker finnCap commented: “This appointment was one of the milestones slated by Avacta for 2018 and follows the $180m licensing partnership with LG Chem announced this week.
“Given his experience in highly relevant fields of drug development, his input and guidance will be crucial for Avacta as it takes its lead compound (bispecific PD-L1/LAG-3 Affimer) towards human Phase I clinical trials, which is targeted for 2020.”
finnCap repeated a 120p price target on Avacta, with the shares currently trading at 29p, unchanged on Tuesday's close.
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