Developing the next generation of cancer therapies

Avacta is developing novel cancer immunotherapies combining its two proprietary platforms – Affimer® biotherapeutics and pre|CISIONTM tumour targeted chemotherapy. With this approach, the Company aims to address the lack of a durable response to current cancer immunotherapies as well as current high off-target toxicity experienced by most patients.

Avacta expects to enter the clinic with its lead pre|CISION™ programme, a tumour activated form of doxorubicin, in early 2021. The lead Affimer® programme, a PD-L1 Affimer® antagonist, will form the basis of future bispecifics, combinations with pre|CISION™ chemotherapies and novel tumour microenvironment activated drug conjugates (TMAC®).

Avacta has established drug development partnerships with pharma and biotech, including a research collaboration with ModernaTx, Inc., a development and commercialisation deal with LG Chem worth up to $310m and a collaboration with ADC Therapeutics to develop novel Affimer® drug conjugates. The Company is actively seeking to license its proprietary platforms in a range of therapeutic areas.

Meet the team

Alastair Smith

Alastair Smith

Chief Executive Officer

TMAC Programme Accelerates: Clinical Trial Planned for Early 2020Alastair 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.

Amrik Basran

Amrik Basran

Chief Scientific Officer

Dr Amrik Basran has over 14 years’ experience of both the biotech and pharma industries. He completed his degree and PhD at the University of Leicester and has a background in protein biochemistry/engineering. He then spent 6 years as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology, Cambridge University isolating novel bacterial pathways involved with the metabolism of illicit drugs and high explosives. In 2002, Amrik then joined Domantis, a start-up biotech company based in Cambridge developing domain antibodies (dAbs), a novel antibody fragment technology. As Director of Protein Sciences, he was responsible for characterising the lead dAbs from early discovery for their suitability for drug development, supporting pre-clinical evaluations and tech transfer to CMOs. Domantis was acquired by GSK in 2006, after which he became Head of Topical Delivery (Biopharm Discovery Unit), supporting the development of biotherapeutics across the GSK portfolio. The group focused on discovering and developing a wide range of therapeutic antibodies, dAbs and proteins for delivery into the eye, skin and lung. This included developing formulation and delivery strategies for biotherapeutics for Phase I clinical studies. Amrik left GSK in 2012 and joined Avacta in 2013 as Chief Scientific Officer to develop the Affimer® platform for therapeutic use, focusing on immuno-oncology where there is a high unmet medical need for new novel drugs to improve the long-term clinical outcome for cancer patients.

Matt Vincent

Matt Vincent

Vice President, Therapeutics Business Development

Dr. Vincent is a senior executive with over 25 years’ experience in multiple areas of biotechnology and life science. He joins Avacta from Arisaph Pharmaceuticals where he led corporate development and therapeutic innovation strategy delivering around $100m in license revenues in the past three years. Prior to Arisaph, Matthew was Director of Business Development at Ocata Therapeutics where he had responsibility for all commercial affairs including product licensing and divestment, asset acquisition and complex commercial negotiations as well as the eventual acquisition of Ocata by Astellas Pharmaceuticals. Matthew’s experience also includes developing therapeutic product profiles for regenerative medicine and immuno-oncology, pricing/reimbursement and regulatory strategy. From his previous work as a lawyer and patent attorney, he has experience in worldwide patent portfolio strategy and IP diligence, regulatory affairs strategy, private and public financing and patent litigation.

Neil Bell

Neil Bell

Chief Development Officer

Neil is responsible for late stage pre-clinical and early clinical development of Avacta’s pipeline of pre|CISIONTM 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.


Avacta’s proprietary Affimer® biotherapeutics can be developed for a range of applications.

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Avacta has a pre-clinical stage biopharmaceutical pipeline of Affimer therapeutic candidates.

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Avacta works with partners where there is mutual interest in co-funding a development programme.

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Avacta works with therapeutics development partners through research collaborations and licensing arrangements

Avacta’s pre|CISIONTM technology can be utilised in a drug conjugate linker or to generate chemotherapy pro-drugs that are only activated in the tumour.

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