Reflections from members of our White City community. This month's spotlight is with Dr Fiona McLaughlin, Chief Scientific Officer,  Avacta Therapeutics.

What is your role at White City?

I am the Chief Scientific Officer for Avacta Therapeutics, headquartered in Scale Space, White City.  Avacta is a biotechnology company developing a portfolio of clinical and pre-clinical staged assets for the treatment of cancer.  We have two technology platforms, the first is called pre|CISIONTM.  The technology delivers a drug which is much better tolerated, enabling further treament cycles to be administered.

Our second technology is the Affimer® platform, which is a novel biological entity which can be engineered to bind to a vast number of oncology targets, either as a naked Affimer®, or conjugated to a toxic payload.  We are developing Affimer® molecules to a range of tumour microenvironment targets and will advance these into early clinical studies.

What do you enjoy about working at White City?

London has become a major hub for both pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology companies, with expansion in several London locations, including the White City Innovation District.  Having a critical mass of research scientists, world class clinical centres, and investors within easy reach is very important to our success.  The transport links to all major UK cities, as well as rail and airport links worldwide is a huge benefit. 

Scale Space in particular is a very energetic co-working space, where collaborations with our White City Community colleagues are fostered.  We are already seeing the benefits of being located in such a vibrant community.

What are the main work challenges for you at the moment?

As with all research and development companies, the challenges are in reducing the time from proof of concept to registration of a novel therapeutic.  The unmet need in oncology drug development is what drives us to try to find new avenues to develop novel therapeutics and bring them to market as efficiently as possible.

What is one thing that you have learned in the last month?

In June, the global oncology community participated in the clinical development meeting (ASCO) where many breakthroughs were announced, amongst them was the clinical trial data of Enhertu which is a specifically engineered HER2-directed antibody drug conjugate (ADC) being jointly developed and commercialised by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo. This exemplifies the benefits of bringing novel targeted therapies forward in multiple indications for the benefit of cancer patients, but also demonstrates the value of collaboration.