World-leading cancer stem cell expert joins Avacta Scientific Advisory Board

Appointment of Professor Gerard Evan further supports Affimer immuno-oncology therapeutics programme

Avacta Group plc, the developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and research reagents, today announced it has appointed Professor Gerard Evan, FRS, to its therapeutics Scientific Advisory Board. Professor Evan brings world-leading expertise in immuno-oncology and cancer stem cell research to support the Group’s development of oncology biotherapeutics based on its proprietary Affimer technology.

Professor Evan’s research focuses on the molecular basis of cancer. He was formerly Gerson and Barbara Bass Baker Distinguished Professor of Cancer Biology at the University of California San Francisco and Co-leader of the Cell Cycling and Signaling Program at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center. In 2009 he was elected to the Sir William Dunn Chair of Biochemistry and Head of Biochemistry in the University of Cambridge.

Professor Evan has a BA in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Molecular Immunology from the University of Cambridge. He was awarded the Pfizer prize in Biology in 1995, and in 1996 was elected as the Royal Society’s Napier Professor of Cancer Research. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and the European Molecular Biology Organozation. Professor Evan has also held the Neal Levitan Research Chair of the Brain Tumor Society and a Senior Scholarship from the Ellison Medical Research Foundation for Aging. 

Affimer technology is based on a small protein that can be quickly generated to bind with high specificity and affinity to a wide range of targets to enable diagnostics, research assays and therapeutics. Avacta has created multiple Affimer libraries of around 10 billion individual Affimer molecules each that can be screened to identify those Affimer molecules that bind to a chosen target. Because of their small size and simple structure, Affimer proteins can easily be formatted to deliver the right properties for different therapeutic applications. They can be fused to create multi-specific molecules, modified to carry a toxin, or expressed and remain functional inside cells. Affimer proteins also provide significant advantages over antibodies in terms of manufacturability.

Avacta has its own therapeutics development pipeline focusing primarily on immuno-oncology. It has established a research partnership with US biotech Moderna Therapeutics and is actively seeking to leverage further its unique IP position through in-licensing and co-development collaborations and partnerships.

Alastair Smith, Avacta Group Chief Executive, commented:

“We are delighted that Professor Evan has joined Avacta’s therapeutics Scientific Advisory Board. His deep knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of cancer will be a great asset to the Company and in particular his pioneering work in the area of cancer stem cell biology could help create novel and highly valuable Affimer therapies in this emerging area. 

Gerard is joining us at an exciting time. We recently announced the important milestone of achieving positive results from the first animal safety and efficacy studies with our lead immuno-oncology candidate, a PD-L1 immune checkpoint inhibitor. This success, and the continued good progress across all other programmes in the past year, has served to further strengthen our belief that the Affimer technology has huge potential as a therapeutic platform and in other non-therapeutic applications. We continue to focus on developing both our internal and partnered therapeutic programs towards clinical validation and on commercialising Affimer reagents in multiple markets.”