Meet the team
Alastair is Chief Executive of Avacta Group plc.
He has been responsible for the management and strategic development of the company and has led the public and private M&A activities of the Group since the IPO on AIM which was completed via a reverse merger in 2006. Alastair is a respected and trusted executive with many years experience of investor relations in the UK, Europe and US and has successfully delivered multiple follow-on fundraisings for the Group totalling over £120m.
Avacta Group is developing next generation oncology drugs based on its proprietary Affimer® and preCISIONTM platforms through its clinical stage Therapeutics Division based in Cambridge, UK. Its Diagnostics Division, based in Wetherby, UK, is developing a pipeline of diagnostic immunoassays utilising Affimer® reagents and works with partners world-wide to develop Affimer-powered products. The Group has around one hundred employees across its two sites and a business development team in the US.
He has a degree and PhD in Physics from Manchester University and, following a period of working in the US, took up a position at Leeds University in 1995. At the age of 38 he was awarded a Chair of Molecular Biophysics and had, over ten years, grew one of the leading biophysics research groups in Europe before he left his academic career in 2007 to focus full time on delivering value to Avacta shareholders.
Tony joined Avacta from AHR, an international architecture and building consultancy practice, where he has held the role of Finance Director since 2011.Between 2007 and 2011, Tony was the Chief Financial Officer of AIM listed Fusion IP plc, an IP commercialisation company, which was subsequently acquired by IP Group plc in 2014. There, he played a key role in supporting the Chief Executive Officer in growing the business and oversaw all finance activities as well as directly supporting life sciences and health technology companies in Fusion’s portfolio.Tony has also held senior finance roles within Eversheds LLP, KCOM Group Plc, Eldon Electric Ltd and Hickson International Plc.
Dr Fiona McLaughlin is a highly experienced oncology drug developer, bringing over 25 years’ experience in research and translational drug development in the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors, having led teams from early research through to clinical development. Fiona started her career at GlaxoSmithKline and has subsequently held leadership positions in multiple biotech companies including Vice President, Translational Research at Antisoma plc and Director of Pre-clinical Development at BTG plc (now part of Boston Scientific).
Other roles include Head of Biology at TopoTarget A/S, where she was responsible for the pre-clinical development of belinostat which went on to gain FDA approval to treat peripheral T-cell lymphoma. Most recently, Fiona was Vice President of New Opportunities at Algeta ASA (acquired by Bayer), a Norwegian biotech developing alpha radio-pharmaceuticals, that gained FDA approval of Xofigo to treat castration resistant prostate cancer.
Fiona has also gained broad experience during her career as a Consultant, providing scientific and strategic advice to biotechs, Not-for-Profit Organisations, and Venture Capitalists in UK, Europe, USA and Australia, including helping drive oncology strategy at the CRUK/AstraZeneca Alliance Laboratory. Fiona received a PhD from the Haematology Department at Cambridge University and has a BSc in Biochemistry from Glasgow University.
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.
Reporting to the CEO, Karen is responsible for Operations within Avacta Therapeutics, supporting the research and development functions with the sole focus of creating maximum value for the organisation’s stakeholders. Aligning all employees to the company’s goals, Karen strategises and prioritises operational requirements, establishes achievable performance measures and sets comprehensive goals for Avacta Therapeutics’ business growth and success.
Karen has over 30 years’ experience managing complex global B2C organisations; designing, planning and implementing strategies, plans and procedures, with a focus on operational excellence, promotion of company culture/vision, and continuous improvement. Her last 15 years have seen her successfully undertake VP/SVP roles, predominantly within the healthcare and life sciences sectors. She has grown PE backed businesses with a focus on value creation through expansion, partnerships, and acquisitions, and also has significant experience of successfully delivering business transformation and integration globally in competitive, consumer-focused environments.
Dr. Mike Owen
Dr Owen was Senior Vice President and global Head of Research of the Biopharmaceuticals R&D Unit at GlaxoSmithKline and was responsible for initiating and rapidly growing GSK’s robust pre-clinical and clinical therapeutic antibody pipeline during the last decade through in-house development as well as through acquisitions such as Domantis. He left GSK in 2010 to establish Kymab which is developing biotherapeutics using its novel transgenic mouse platform. Dr Owen is an immunologist by training who had a highly successful scientific career at Imperial Cancer Research during which he was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and a fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. Dr Owen is also an independent board member at Zealand Pharma and non-executive director of Ossianix Inc. and Blink Therapeutics. He sits on the scientific advisory board of Kymab and also advises the private equity CRT Pioneer Fund and HS Life Sciences.
Professor James SpicerBiography
James Spicer MB., BA., PhD., FRCP is Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine in the School of Cancer & Pharmaceutical Studies at King’s College London, and Consultant in Medical Oncology at Guy’s & St. Thomas’ Hospitals. He has a PhD in cancer biology, and a degree in biochemistry from the University of Oxford. He has established and runs a world-leading Phase 1 clinical trials programme in solid tumour oncology at Guy’s Hospital, where the portfolio of studies includes novel immunotherapies discovered and developed at King’s as well as many externally sponsored studies.
Professor Krishna KomanduriBiography
Professor Krishna Komanduri, M.D. is division chief of Hematology-Oncology at UC San Francisco’s Division of Hematology-Oncology. In addition to his role as division chief, Professor Komanduri is physician-in-chief of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as the clinical director of the UCSF Living Therapeutics Initiative. As division chief, he also holds the Julius R. Krevans Distinguished Professorship. Professor Komanduri formally held several key leadership roles at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami.
Professor Komanduri also serves on the United Health Care Oncology Advisory Committee and on the Optum Health Blood and Marrow Transplantation Advisory Committee. He is a past Chair of the American Society of Hematology Scientific Committee on Host Defense, is the current Chair of the ASTCT Cellular Therapy Committee and Chair-Elect of the Government Relations Committee.
Among his honors, he was elected into the American Society for Clinical Investigation (2009), and was recently inducted in to the Henry Kunkel Society (2021) and into the second class to be named Fellow of the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (2021).
Dr. Stéphane ChampiatBiography
Dr Stéphane Champiat MD, PhD is a physician at Gustave Roussy Cancer Center in Villejuif, France. He has been working since 2012 in the Drug Development Department of Gustave Roussy where he is involved in the development of cancer therapeutics, in particular new immunotherapies. He has been principal investigator or co-investigator of more than 50 phase I clinical trials run by many of the worlds leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He is particularly involved in the coordination of the immunotherapy toxicity management program and the development of the intra-tumoral immunotherapy strategy at Gustave Roussy.