Avacta is excited about future progress

Avactas CEO Dr Alastair Smith
Avactas CEO Dr Alastair Smith
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Diagnostics specialist Avacta said ​it has seen “an exceptionally strong” period over the past 12 months and it is excited about the potential for its ​​Affimer technology - Avacta’s alternative to antibodies​.

​In order to meet future demand, the Wetherby-based group has built two new facilities in Wetherby and Cambridge​, adding 20,000 sq ft.

Avacta​‘s ​CEO Dr Alastair Smith​ said; “We moved into the Wetherby facility in August last year. It’s been a fabulous move. We’ve fitted it out with offices and laboratories. It’s a great site and it makes the right commercial impression.

“The past ​12 months have been an exceptionally strong period of performance and we have never been more excited about the potential for the Affimer technology.

​“​The commercial traction for Affimer reagents has continued to build which is reflected in the strong growth in the number of technology evaluations and license deals that have been agreed.​”

The firm said revenues rose 26 per cent to £2.74m in the year to July 31. The group’s loss from continuing operations rose from £4.65m to £6.37m. It said cash balances at £13.17m were well ahead of market expectations.

Dr Smith said the​ first license deal with a global diagnostics company represents a significant milestone and ​the group is confident of delivering ​more license deals which are key to building a profitable Affimer reagents business.

“We have a pipeline of similar evaluations ongoing that should deliver more licensing deals in 2018. We expect a small handful to begin with,” he said.

​“​Major milestones that have been delivered in the past year include the positive outcome of the first animal efficacy data and excellent results from a major immunogenicity trial on human samples​.”

He said the group is seeing growing interest from potential partners and ​it is​ ​​providing ​them with ​data and technology evaluations that will eventually lead to licensing deals.

​“​Antibodies have become the dominant technology in markets worth in excess of $100​bn ​(£75bn) ​annually and this is despite some significant limitations​,” he said​.

​“​The opportunity for a competitive alternative such as the Affimer technology, is very large.​ ​We believe that 2018 could be a very significant year for the ​g​roup and I look forward to further updating the market on future progress.”

Dr Smith said that Affimers are facing the same issues that any new technology faces.

“We are building awareness in the market. It’s absolutely the same with any new platform you’re trying to launch. Affimers definitely work. It’s about building data,” he said.

​​Analyst Mark Brewer at FinnCap said: “Avacta reported 2017 results slightly ahead of expectations, ending the year with £13.2m cash.

​“​Whilst the market continues to look for further external validation, Avacta continues to build incremental value as it remains on track to take its first asset into the clinic in 2019.

​“​Full year results demonstrated good financial stewardship and strong progress, reflected in the uplift in the order book for custom Affimer evaluations​ ​and the first non-therapeutics licensing deal with a global top-3 diagnostics company. This underscores the interest amongst large pharma/biotech as well as the diagnostics market.​”

Avacta​ said its Affimer technology ​is an engineered alternative to antibodies that has wide application in ​l​ife ​s​ciences for diagnostics, therapeutics and general research and development.

​The group said a​ntibodies dominate markets worth ​over ​£38bn despite their shortcomings. ​Its ​Affimer technology has been designed to address many of these negative performance issues, ​including the time taken to generate new antibodies, the reliance on an animal's immune response, poor specificity in many cases, and batch to batch variability.

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 protein targets.

Avacta has a pre-clinical biotech development programme with an in-house focus on immuno-oncology and bleeding disorders as well as partnered development programmes. ​It is commercialising non-therapeutic Affimer reagents through licensing to developers of life sciences research tools and diagnostics.