Dr Ramzi Ajjan is an Associate Professor at the University of Leeds and a Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the Leeds NHS Trust working with patients suffering from diabetes who are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes.
Cardiovascular disease remains the main cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. Blood clot structure and clot breakdown, or lysis, can determine predisposition to cardiovascular disease and therefore being able to modulate these processes can reduce the risk of vascular events. Dr Ajjan’s research activities are focused on trying to reduce heart attacks and strokes in high-risk patients suffering from diabetes.
Avacta has entered into a research partnership with Dr Ajjan to identify Affimer biotherapeutic candidates that could bind with fibrinogen and interfere with clotting. Preliminary work that has been carried out to date by Dr Ajjan indicates that Affimer reagents are indeed able to modulate blood clotting and clot lysis. Under the terms of the agreement, Avacta will work with Dr Ajjan on a two year pre-clinical programme to generate a number of lead therapeutic candidates and establish their key performance characteristics. The therapeutic rights to such molecules belong to Avacta.
Affimer molecules are an engineered protein alternative to antibodies that may be utilised as research reagents and as biotherapeutics. In August 2015 Avacta raised £21m to invest in pre-clinical therapeutic development programmes, incremental to the ongoing development and commercialisation of Affimer reagents for research and diagnostics. The Company’s principle in-house programme is focused on immuno-oncology and the inhibition of immune checkpoints as a treatment for cancers. The research partnership with Dr Ajjan is an important external collaboration for the Company focusing on cardiovascular disease. The Company’s principle objective in the next few years is to bring the first Affimer biotherapeutic to the clinic.
Dr Ajjan said: “Having worked with Affimer technology for some time now I am absolutely astonished by what we can do with these molecules. We have been trying for years to reduce blood clot formation. However this is very challenging because clots are made up of a complex network of fibrin fibres and the cells get trapped in this network. If the network can be made less compact it is easier to break down.”
“The work we have done with Affimer molecules simply would not have been possible with antibodies. The large number of Affimer reagents we screened would not have been technically possible using antibodies and we’ve now been able to identify new therapeutic targets.”
Avacta Chief Executive Officer Alastair Smith said: “I am really excited by the data that Dr Ajjan has generated to date and delighted to be investing in the research programme with him over the next couple of years. The potential of the Affimer technology as a therapeutic platform is considerable and these early results are very encouraging. I greatly look forward to working with Ramzi and his team to develop safe cardiovascular medicines that can really make a difference to people’s lives.”
Watch our video interview with Dr Ajjan below.