Avacta, Wetherby life sciences firm, hires dealmaker

Avacta CEO Alastair Smith

Wetherby-based life sciences company Avacta Group announced the appointment of experienced dealmaker Simon Bennett as chief business officer of its Therapeutics Division. 

“Simon has over 26 years’ commercial experience in the biopharma industry,” said Avacta.

“He has worked with companies from large and mid-sized pharma such as Bristol-Myers-Squibb and Menarini Group to early stage biotechs, supporting business development and licensing activities in addition to being involved in all aspects of business and corporate development.

“Simon has been involved in over 80 commercial deals across Europe, North America, Australasia, Japan, Russia/CIS and South America.”

Avacta shares rose about 3% to around £1.19 to give the firm a current stock market value of about £335 million.

Avacta has two divisions — an oncology biotech division harnessing proprietary therapeutic platforms to develop novel, highly targeted cancer drugs, and a diagnostics division, which is executing on an M&A led growth strategy.

Avacta Group CEO Alastair Smith said: “As chief business officer, Simon will work closely with the senior management team and lead commercial strategy and business development activities at this exciting period in the company’s development as compelling clinical data emerges from the AVA6000 phase 1 trial.

“These emerging data give us, for the first time, the opportunity to accelerate ongoing discussions as well as to generate new opportunities through our business development activities aimed at delivering licensing opportunities for the pre|CISION and Affimer platforms.”

Bennett‘s career began at University of Oxford spin-out Oxagen Limited where he established and built a franchise in Women’s Health, initially as Programme Director and later as Director of Business Development.

He subsequently joined next generation sequencing company Solexa where, as Business Development Director, he was responsible for all commercial activities and external communications leading up to the reverse takeover of Nasdaq-listed Lynx Therapeutics to form Solexa Inc. which was later acquired by Illumina.

Since then, Bennett has worked as a consultant providing expert commercial and business development resources to a wide range of biopharmaceutical companies.

Prior to moving into industry, Bennett was a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College London. He has published widely, particularly in the field of complex disease genetics.

Bennett said: “Avacta is at a pivotal point, having recently announced clinical data that have already begun to generate interest from potential commercial partners.

“I am delighted to be joining at such an exciting point in the journey of the business, to help the team optimise the commercial opportunities of their technologies and assets.”