British life sciences firm announces £143m deal to help fight cancer

Cambridge-based pharmaceuticals firm Avacta has partnered with Korean conglomerate, LG Chem company, to develop a new generation of cancer drugs.

Avacta's Affimer technology acts as an alternative to antibodies and are approximately ten times smaller than an antibody - image courtesy of Pixabay
Avacta’s Affimer technology acts as an alternative to antibodies by treating conditions that antibodies cannot remedy – image courtesy of Pixabay

Avacta, whose Affimer technology is an engineered alternative to antibodies, will be tasked with generating and carrying out the discovery, optimisation and protein engineering of Affimer drug candidates. They will also collaborate with LG Chem in developing two different Affimer modifiers.

The CEO of Avacta said the partnership showed the strength of the firm’s Affimer technology: “This landmark agreement with LG Chem,” said Alastair Smith, “reflects the substantial progress that we have made in developing the Affimer technology as a therapeutic platform.”

As part of the agreement, LG Chem, a subsidiary of the LG Corporation conglomerate, will hold the exclusive rights to develop and commercialise many Affimer therapeutics intended to medicate inflammatory disorders and oncological illnesses.

Avacta will generate and carry out the discovery, optimisation and protein engineering of Affimer drug candidates.  LG Chem and Avacta will then collaborate to progress these candidates through to drug candidate selection. LG Chem will then be responsible for product marketing and product pre-clinical and clinical development.

Avacta and LG Chem have also agreed to develop two different Affimer modifiers with an option to exclusively develop, manufacture and market the modifier.

LG Chem will pay for Avacta’s R&D costs and receive royalties on future product sales. Avacta could also receive milestone payments and option fees should LG Chem decide to create additional targets.

Dr Jeewong Son, LG Chem’s president, said the collaboration will take advantage of both companies’ technological capabilities and result in more advanced medical treatments:”Utilising Avacta’s Affimer technology…and LG Chem’s biologics capability in development and manufacturing, will take us to the next level of treatment paradigm and to open up a new horizon in biologics therapeutic strategies. I believe this innovative collaboration will deliver value to patients and will transform patients’ lives.”

Affimers are proteins that act as an alternative to antibodies and aptamers. They are about 10-times smaller than antibodies and can treat conditions that antibodies are unable to remedy. For example, affimer technologies can deliver potent cytotoxic drugs directly to a tumour, thereby reducing the tumour’s exposure to healthy tissue.

Avacta is just one of 440 life sciences companies based in or around Cambridge. According to Cambridge University, the sector employed around 14,000 people and generated £4.2bn in revenue last year, a rise of 56% over the previous two years.


Reporting by Harry Wise