London, UK, 16 November 2020 – Avvinity Therapeutics Limited (“Avvinity”), an immuno-oncology company developing Alphamer® immunotherapies for solid and haematological cancers, today announces the appointments of Nick Staples as interim CEO and Jon Moore as Non-Executive Director.
Avvinity’s proprietary Alphamer immunotherapy platform harnesses a novel and powerful immune adaptation found in certain primates (including humans) to selectively kill cancer cells. Having recently attracted early stage funding from LifeArc and the UK Government’s Future Fund, the company is set to deliver key in vivo studies for AV001 its novel EGFR targeted Alphamer program, ahead of a Series A fundraise in 2021.
Dr Nick Staples brings strong biotech leadership experience gained over 20 years in private and public life science companies and the capital markets. Nick has a proven track record in all aspects of corporate development, having raised over £150 million in private and public fundraises to date and successfully completed a number of M&A and partnering transactions, start-ups and joint ventures.
Previously, Nick was CEO at Locate Bio where he was responsible for leading a new cell and gene therapy strategy. He also served as CBO at Artios Pharma, a leading DDR oncology company which he helped establish as a venture backed spin out from CRUK, and CBO at TopiVert Pharma, a clinical stage biotech company. Earlier in his career, Nick held senior corporate and business development roles at Vectura plc, SSL International plc and Protherics plc.
Nick Staples, CEO said: “I am excited to be joining Avvinity at this crucial time, with forthcoming in vivo results enabling a Series A fundraise in 2021 to progress its lead program to the clinic”.
Dr Jon Moore was a co-founder of Avvinity Therapeutics and he has been with the company since its foundation. Jon is currently an Operating Partner at Advent Life Sciences, having previously served as CSO of Horizon Discovery plc and as Head of Biology at Vernalis plc.
Jon Moore, Non-Executive Director said: “Having been part of the Avvinity journey since its inception, I am tremendously excited at the prospect of using Alphamers as novel immunotherapeutics to treat cancers, and also potentially in other diseases in conjunction with partners.”
Nick Higgins, Chairman said: “I am delighted that Nick has joined Avvinity as its CEO and similarly that Jon will be continuing to support the company as a non-executive director. The company has made tremendous progress over the last 18 months and we are looking forward to receiving key in vivo data for our novel EGFR-targeted Alphamer immunotherapy in the coming months.”
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Interim CEO, Avvinity Therapeutics
Notes to editors
About Avvinity Therapeutics
Avvinity Therapeutics Limited (“Avvinity”) is a UK based, early stage, immuno-oncology company developing Alphamer® immunotherapies for solid and haematological cancers. The company’s proprietary Alphamer technology (see below) directs pre-existing polyclonal anti-sugar antibodies to tumour cells, thereby triggering a powerful immune response (innate and adaptive) which eradicates the target cells in a highly selective manner.
Avvinity was founded in 2016 as a cancer-focused joint venture between Centauri Therapeutics, which is developing Alphamers for infectious diseases, and Horizon Discovery plc, a gene editing tools and services company. In 2020, Avvinity became a standalone company following investments from LifeArc and the UK Government’s Future Fund to progress preclinical in vivo studies to validate Alphamers as novel therapeutics for the treatment of cancers.
Avvinity is building a pipeline of first-in-class Alphamer immunotherapies targeting solid tumours and haematological cancers, with a lead program targeting Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) as an immunotherapeutic to treat a range of epithelial solid tumours. Avvinity is also seeking to make its Alphamer technology available to other companies and it has granted an exclusive license to Centauri Therapeutics for applications in anti-infectives applications.
Humans and other primates have high titres of antibodies against certain ‘non-self’ sugars (most notably alpha-gal and rhamnose) which are presented to the immune system by intestinal bacteria. These antibodies, which include both IgG and IgM types, consist of a range of antibodies (polyclonal) that individually bind non-self sugars with low affinity, but which bind collectively with high functional affinity (avidity). As a result, an immune response is mounted only when these non-self sugars and thus anti-sugar antibodies are present above a threshold level. This creates the basis for a therapeutic window which Avvinity exploits through its Alphamer technology.
Alphamers are systemic molecules designed to search out and attach to target cells e.g. cancer cells that overexpress specific cell-surface markers, and then to recruit the existing anti-sugar antibodies to the cell. Alphamer molecules are composed of a targeting domain such as an antibody or antibody fragment which binds a cancer cell surface target and which is connected by proprietary linker domain to one or more non-self sugar molecules that bind to pre-existing antibodies in the bloodstream. When these antibodies are present on the cell surface above a certain threshold, a broad immune response (innate and adaptive) is ‘called down’ to kill the target tumour cells.
Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) targeted lead program
Avvinity’s lead Alphamer® program targets the immune system to cancer cells that commonly overexpress the cell surface Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor. EGFR plays an important role in the regulation of several important cell functions including cell proliferation, and its levels are commonly elevated in most epithelial solid tumours including gastric tumours, head and neck, colon and lung cancers. A number of EGFR targeted products have been approved to date and they work by inhibiting the cell signalling effects of EGFR (signal transduction). However, their clinical utility is restricted by existing and acquired mutations in the EGFR signalling pathway. Avvinity anticipates that by stimulating a powerful immune response, in addition to blocking EGFR cell signalling, Alphamers will have broader utility and more pronounced clinical effects.