Appointment of Dr. Christina Coughlin as a consultant

Related party transaction notification

Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), a life sciences company developing innovative, targeted oncology drugs and powerful diagnostics, today announces that, according to the AIM rules governing Related Party Transactions, that it has entered into a consultancy agreement with Dr. Christina Coughlin (the “Consultancy Agreement”), currently a Non-Executive Director of the Group, as it seeks to appoint a full-time Chief Medical Officer.

The continuing very positive clinical progress of AVA6000 has validated the tumour targeting capability of the pre|CISIONTM platform. This has opened up the potential for multiple commercial opportunities, and the scope for using pre|CISIONTM to create a pipeline of new tumour-targeted cancer therapies is extensive. The Company’s clinical strategy is key to fully exploiting this opportunity through a combination of in-house development and an active licensing and commercial partnerships programme. Therefore, the Company is seeking to add a full-time Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with responsibility for driving the Company’s clinical strategy.

In advance of appointing a full-time CMO, the Company will leverage the expertise of Dr. Coughlin on a temporary basis through the Consultancy Agreement. Dr. Coughlin is a highly experienced clinical oncologist with a broad background in biotechnology, global pharmaceuticals, and comprehensive experience in drug development from pre-IND to filing. Dr Coughlin also has a proven track record of building drug development teams in global companies.

Dr. Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D. was previously the Chief Executive Officer of Cytolmmune Therapeutics LLC, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, focused on the development and commercialisation of novel cancer immunotherapy products designed to use the patient’s own immune system to eliminate cancer cells. She also served as Chief Medical Officer to Rubius Therapeutics. Inc, where she led the clinical development, translational medicine and regulatory efforts in the allogeneic red cell therapy platform. Prior to Rubius, Dr. Coughlin was with Tmunity Therapeutics, Inc., where she served as Chief Medical Officer and was responsible for the development of autologous CAR-T and TCR-T cellular therapies.

Dr. Coughlin will retain her position on the Avacta Board as a Non-Executive Director.

Avacta also announces that Neil Bell, Chief Development Officer of the Group, will be leaving the Company. Under Neil’s guidance over the last three years, the Company has established a clinical development infrastructure which will help support the Company’s clinical programmes going forwards. Avacta wishes him well in the future.

Under the terms of the Consultancy Agreement, Avacta will pay Dr Coughlin a monthly consultancy fee of US$15,000 for an initial period of six months, with the option to extend by a further six months to a total of 12 months subject to the agreement of the Company and Dr. Coughlin. This fee is capped at US$180,000 in total.

The Consultancy Agreement amounts to a related party transaction within the meaning of the AIM Rules for Companies. The Directors who are independent of the related party transaction (being all the Directors other than Dr. Christina Coughlin) having consulted with Stifel, the Company’s nominated adviser, consider the terms of the Consultancy Agreement to be fair and reasonable insofar as the shareholders of the Company are concerned.

Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive of Avacta Group commented:

“The Board and I would like to thank Neil for his hard work over the past few years in taking our first programme into the clinic. We are now moving from a phase of building our clinical development capabilities to leveraging that capacity across multiple programmes. It is therefore appropriate that we transition the Senior Leadership team to incorporate medical oncology experience. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to benefit in the near term from Christina’s immense experience during this exciting period as we seek to appoint a full-time Chief Medical Officer.”

Dr Christina Coughlin, commented:

“The potential of the pre|CISIONTM platform to deliver significant improvement to cancer patient outcomes is very exciting. The team, led by Neil, has done an excellent job and I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with them to complete the hugely successful dose escalation study and move into the dose expansion study in soft tissue sarcoma patients later this year. 

“Beyond that we have potential to exploit AVA6000 to treat other cancers such as breast and ovarian and a wealth of opportunities to build our pipeline and partnerships. I am looking forward to working with the team on this strategy at this very exciting time.”