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Avacta Group PLC

Avacta selects drug candidate for phase I trial

The important milestone puts the company on track to file a new drug/clinical application by the end of 2020 as planned

researcher at microscope
The planned phase I study of the AVA004 Affimer will be in patients with advanced PD-L1 positive solid tumours

Avacta Group PLC (LON:AVCT) has selected the cancer drug candidate that it will take into first-in-human clinical trials.

This is an important milestone that means the company remains on track to submit an investigational new drug/clinical trial application by the end of next year.

WATCH: Avacta's Alastair Smith updates on selection of cancer candidate to take into clinic

It has selected Affimer molecule AVA004 because of its “excellent” properties in lab test. It will be developed as a PD-L1, one of a breed of cancer drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors.

AVA004 was shown to be as good as three of the current PD-L1 drugs already on the market in the aforementioned lab tests. Avacta’s drug candidate was developed from its Affimer platform.

Unique technology

Affimers are essentially small, engineered proteins capable of binding specific molecular targets, in a similar way to antibodies.

This binding property can be used to target cancer cells in the human body and make those cells vulnerable to attack from the body’s own immune system.

Many existing immuno-oncology therapies use an antibody to target cancer, but Affimers have several innovative features which potentially make them a better tool for therapeutic applications.

They are smaller, quicker to manufacture and easier to format, but they maintain antibody-like biologic activity when binding a target.

The planned phase I study of the AVA004 Affimer will be in patients with advanced PD-L1 positive solid tumours. 

Trial design

The trial will include 20-30 patients in at least two sites in North America and Europe assessing safety tolerability.

"Selection of the Affimer PD-L1 inhibitor candidate for clinical development is an important milestone in our development of the Affimer therapeutic platform,” said chief executive Alastair Smith. 

"The group remains firmly on track to submit an application to the regulators for a first-time-in-human clinical study late in 2020,” he added.

The shares were flat at 30.5p. 'House' broker finnCap reiterated its 125p valuation. Analyst Mark Brewer said of the latest update: "A successful outcome will de-risk the Affimer platform for future partners and would be expected to result in an increased number and value of future therapeutic licensing deals. We reiterate our target price."

 -- Adds share price and broker comment --

Quick facts: Avacta Group PLC

Price: £0.21

Market: AIM
Market Cap: £24.39 m
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