Meet the Avacta Group team
Click each biography for more information
Alastair is the founder of Avacta, a biotech start-up with around 80 staff in two sites in Wetherby and Cambridge, and has been responsible for leading the management, strategic development and fund raising for the company since IPO on AIM in 2006.
Since 2012 Alastair has raised over £50m for Avacta to develop and commercialise Affimer® proteins. Avacta is focused on novel immunotherapies for cancer and will be in the clinic with its first programme in 2020.
The company is also building a revenue stream through licensing of Affimer® proteins to replace antibodies in diagnostics and research products.
Alastair has a degree and PhD in Physics from Manchester University and, after working in the US for a period, took up a position at Leeds University in 1995. At the age of 38 he was awarded the Chair of Molecular Biophysics and grew, over ten years, one of the leading biophysics research groups in Europe. He left his academic career in 2007 to focus full time on building value for Avacta shareholders.
Tony joined Avacta from AHR, an international architecture and building consultancy practice, where he has held the role of Finance Director since 2011.Between 2007 and 2011, Tony was the Chief Financial Officer of AIM listed Fusion IP plc, an IP commercialisation company, which was subsequently acquired by IP Group plc in 2014. There, he played a key role in supporting the Chief Executive Officer in growing the business and oversaw all finance activities as well as directly supporting life sciences and health technology companies in Fusion’s portfolio.Tony has also held senior finance roles within Eversheds LLP, KCOM Group Plc, Eldon Electric Ltd and Hickson International Plc.
Dr Forster brings over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, most recently leading Immunocore as Chief Executive Officer to become a world-leading immuno-oncology biotech, raising over £230 million in equity and non-dilutive funding as well as securing partnerships with AstraZeneca and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The early part of Dr Forster’s career was at GSK and then he went on to hold a number of senior roles in Pfizer where he became Head of Development and Operations for the EU and Asia, a role in which he was responsible for drug development activities across multiple geographies and was involved in bringing several drugs to market, including Celebrex® (celecoxib) and Relpax® (eletriptan). Since leaving Pfizer, Dr Forster’s roles have included the Chief Executive Officer of UK-based Creabilis.
Dr Forster holds a PhD in neurophysiology from Liverpool University and an MBA from Henley Management College. He is Chairman of the MedCity project that promotes the Life Sciences in the London/Cambridge/Oxford “Golden Triangle”. He is an Honorary Visiting Professor of the Pharmacology and Physiology Department at the University of Liverpool, a Board member of OSCHR (Office for Strategic Coordination of Health Research) and the National Genomics Board.
Dr Owen was Senior Vice President and global Head of Research of the Biopharmaceuticals R&D Unit at GlaxoSmithKline and was responsible for initiating and rapidly growing GSK’s robust pre-clinical and clinical therapeutic antibody pipeline during the last decade through in-house development as well as through acquisitions such as Domantis. He left GSK in 2010 to establish Kymab which is developing biotherapeutics using its novel transgenic mouse platform. Dr Owen is an immunologist by training who had a highly successful scientific career at Imperial Cancer Research during which he was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Dr Owen is also an independent board member at Zealand Pharma and non-executive director of Ossianix Inc. and Blink Therapeutics. He sits on the scientific advisory board of Kymab and also advises the private equity CRT Pioneer Fund and HS Life Sciences.
Trevor Nicholls has over 35 years of commercial experience building international businesses in the life sciences sector. As Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Vice President of Affymetrix, he was responsible for global operations including sales, marketing, product development and manufacturing, overseeing 600 staff across 8 locations worldwide. In this role he grew product revenue from US$249 million to US$330 million in two years with the launch of a large number of new products including major instrument systems during that period. In addition, he has over 14 years of technical marketing and sales experience in the life science reagents and instrumentation sector, holding a variety of senior commercial roles in Amersham International (now part of GE Healthcare).Dr Nicholls is currently Chief Executive Officer of the not-for-profit CAB International, an intergovernmental organisation owned by 47 member countries whose mission is to improve lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. He is also a Non-Executive Director of hVivo plc, the pioneer of human challenge models of respiratory disease and Conidia Bioscience Ltd a UK biotech company that develops, manufactures and sells tests to detect microbial contamination in fuel. He was also founder and CEO of Oxagen, a spin-out company from the University of Oxford where he successfully raised approximately £50 million over three venture-backed financing rounds and secured major commercial partnerships. Prior to that he had also worked in consultancy with McKinsey.Trevor brings great experience in commercial and corporate strategy, international sales and marketing and building life sciences businesses.
Paul has extensive financial experience across a number of industries including biotech, pharmaceutical and telecommunications. He is currently Chief Financial Officer of Vectura Group plc, an industry leading inhaled drug delivery specialist listed on the FTSE Main Market.
Prior to his current position, he was Chief Financial Officer of Immunocore Limited, a leading biotech company focused on the development of a new class of immunotherapeutic drugs based on proprietary T-cell receptor technology. Paul has also served as Director of Global Finance Operations at Vodafone plc and spent more than 25 years at GlaxoSmithKline (“GSK”), where he held a number of senior roles including Head of Global Finance Services and Chief Financial Officer for GSK’s Italian pharmaceutical business.
Paul is Chair of the Audit Committee.
Emma has 20 years’ experience in advising on, drafting and negotiating commercial and intellectual property contracts. She joined Avacta in 2014 from Walker Morris Solicitors, where she headed the Life Sciences and Pharmaceuticals Group. Emma has previous in-house experience at Smith & Nephew. She was also a member of the Legal and Regulatory Committee and Adjudication Panel of the Association of British Healthcare Industries. Emma has a wealth of experience in commercial contracts relating to research, development and commercialisation in the life sciences sector, including cross jurisdictional research and collaboration agreements; supply agreements; manufacturing and outsourcing agreements; and multi-jurisdictional intellectual property licensing.
After obtaining a BA (hons) in history from Nottingham Trent University, Michael undertook a career in marketing and communications, initially with the NHS and Department of Health. He moved into the life sciences industry working for Bioventus and Smith & Nephew. Here he helped to significantly grow their digital presence and delivered a number of successful international medical device marketing campaigns, as well as working on internal and external communications. Michael joined Avacta Group in 2014, where he now leads the communications function.