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2 January, 2019 - 14:54 By Kate Sweeney

Roche ace joins Avacta

Avacta in Cambridge, which develops Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, has appointed Dr Jose Saro as chief medical officer to lead the group’s therapeutic development strategy and drive the in-house programmes into the clinic.

Dr Saro brings over 20 years’ experience in the pre-clinical, translational and early clinical development of oncology assets, spanning small molecules, biologics and drug conjugates. 

He joins from Roche where he was senior translational medicine leader at the Roche Innovation Center Zurich where he focused on immuno-oncology and the development of combination products. 

Prior to Roche, Dr Saro was executive director Oncology Global Development and Medical Affairs at Bristol Myers Squibb, based in Paris, where he led and contributed to many oncology clinical development programmes, including Sprycel, Ipilimumab (Yervoy anti-CTLA4), Nivolumab (anti-PD1), anti-PDL1, anti KIR, anti LAG3, Brivanib, MEK inhibitor and Elotuzumab.

Previously, he was executive director of Translational Medicine and Early Clinical Development (Oncology) at Novartis. And prior to that, he held senior roles at Eisai, and Wyeth.

Dr Saro also has experience of the small biotech environment, having spent several years as VP Oncology Clinical Development at PharmaMar, an oncology-focused biotech. There, he was head of clinical research & development teams, comprising approximately 45 people, located in both Madrid and Boston, MA.

Alastair Smith, Avacta’s chief executive, said:  “Dr Saro’s extensive experience in developing pre-clinical assets and translating those into clinical development will be an invaluable asset to Avacta.

“Jose joins Avacta at a hugely exciting time as we progress towards the first Affimer® clinical studies, which is a significant value inflection point for both the technology and group.”

Dr Saro added: “Due to their simple structure, Affimer® proteins can be formatted to deliver the right characteristics required for the next generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics.

“There are many opportunities for such a platform technology and the recent collaboration with Tufts University Medical School is one example of a potentially game-changing approach that is possible with Affimers. 

“I believe the technology will be a huge benefit to many oncology patients who currently have limited therapeutic options.”

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