Christina Coughlin, MD, PhD, appointed Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group

Dr. Coughlin has served as a Director since 2022, assuming the role of Head of Research and Development in February 2024, driving the development of the pre|CISION platform 

 Appointment reflects Avacta’s focus on maximizing value from the pre|CISIONTM platform for the treatment of cancer  

Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), a life sciences company developing innovative, targeted cancer treatments and powerful diagnostics, announces that Christina Coughlin, MD, PhD, has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer of Avacta, effective 1 May 2024. Dr Coughlin has served as a Board member since March 2022, consultant in clinical development and as Head of Research & Development since February 2024, driving the development of the pre|CISIONTM platform from the bench to the bedside. After 19 years as CEO, Dr. Alastair Smith will be stepping down today.

The Avacta Board of Directors has been preparing for CEO succession, supported by a third-party recruitment specialist. As part of this process, it has considered a wide range of candidates as a potential new CEO for the Group, reviewing both external and internal candidates. Dr. Coughlin emerged from these activities as the outstanding candidate for CEO. The Board also plans a broader evolution in order to meet the increased demands of being a clinical stage oncology company, alongside the need to more clearly communicate with shareholders and other key stakeholders.

Dr. Coughlin trained as an oncologist and immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania and her career in industry has included roles with increasing seniority at major biopharmaceutical companies including Wyeth, Pfizer and Novartis. She has since held several senior leadership roles in biotech companies including Immunocore (NASDAQ: IMCR), Tmunity and Rubius where she served as Chief Medical Officer. More recently, Dr Coughlin served as the Chief Executive Officer of Cytolmmune Therapeutics. At Avacta, Dr Coughlin has been pivotal in driving the clinical development strategy for AVA6000, the lead pre|CISION™ peptide-drug conjugate, and the broader drug pipeline strategy at the Company.

Dr Eliot Forster, Chairman of Avacta, commented: 

“At this pivotal time, with AVA6000 having achieved clinical Proof of Concept and with a broad platform of assets in oncology, Avacta needs leadership that will drive the Company through the next stage of clinical development, lead commercialisation around the platform and shape the exciting future direction of this business. 

“I am confident that Chris is the right person to lead Avacta’s next chapter. Her deep understanding of drug development and the urgent unmet needs in oncology, her extensive scientific and clinical experience and her many years in leadership roles in this industry make her the ideal person to drive our strategy and present the Company’s truly innovative technology to the specialist healthcare investor audience, especially in the US. We are confident she has the broader skillset, experience and insight to position the Company correctly to achieve value for patients and shareholders alike.

I would also like to extend my sincere thanks to Alastair for the huge role he has played in the foundation and development of this Company. On behalf of the entire Board, we wish him the best for the future.” 

Christina Coughlin, Chief Executive designate of Avacta Group, added: 

“Having worked with Avacta now for more than two years, I have a keen appreciation for the broad potential for the pre|CISION platform to change the way in which we treat cancer. Avacta is delivering a truly innovative next generation of highly targeted, potent and well-tolerated cancer therapies directly to the tumour microenvironment, supported by our recent proof-of-concept data for AVA6000. 

“As an oncologist, I saw first-hand the effects of these therapies in patients and I couldn’t be more excited to be stepping into the role of Chief Executive to drive this innovative platform forward and to shape the future of this Company. We have important work in the near future to deliver on our exciting pipeline including AVA6000, pre|CISION and our drug conjugate pipeline. With this robust pipeline, our team is committed to working to deliver real change for patients and value for shareholders.”