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.”