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Aptamer Group

Aptamer Group

News 16/10/2023

Discover how Aptamer Group, a trailblazer in Optimer® binders for life sciences, achieved its remarkable journey to becoming a publicly listed company with the strategic guidance of Secerna LLP.

Aptamer Group

Company: Aptamer Group
Entity: Listed company
Established: 2008
Location: York, UK
Industry: Life sciences
Specialism: Aptamer discovery and development


About Aptamer Group

The business was founded by Dr Arron Tolley and Dr David Bunka, who saw the need in the life sciences market for binders that could plug the gap where antibodies either failed or performed incorrectly.

Having developed its Optimer® platform for the discovery of synthetic antibody-alternatives that allow for a range of possibilities, such as the targeted delivery of drugs, the Aptamer Group now has partnerships with many of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical firms, including Britain’s biggest drug maker, AstraZeneca, and employs over 55 people from its base at York Science Park.

At the end of 2021, Aptamer Group floated on the AIM stock exchange with a value of £80.7 million.


From an embryonic start to a successful business.

In 2011, when Secerna and Aptamer Group were both relatively new businesses, Dr Tolley approached Secerna Partner Charlotte Watkins for intellectual property advice.

In the early stages, this meant advising on whether Aptamer Group had the freedom to operate around
specific targets and competitor technologies to guarantee the business remained viable. As the
company grew, Secerna provided guidance on IP clauses in the contracts the company was signing with
commercial partners and universities to ensure that any intellectual property developed as part of the
partnership belonged to Aptamer Group.

This focus later shifted to support patent applications to protect the intellectual property created by Aptamer Group.

The scope of IP advice provided by Secerna has grown in line with Aptamer Group’s business, helping to
ensure that every opportunity has been maximised.

From the start, one of the Aptamer Group’s main goals was to work towards a stock market flotation. This long-term goal formed a key part of the IP strategy, with the work Secerna has carried out from day one focused on covering the group’s IP needs while building towards a successful stock market flotation. This was achieved for Aptamer Group in 2021, with an IP strategy that supported the business as it transitioned to a publicly listed company.


Overcoming challenges

As with many start-ups or spin-out companies, during the early stages, it was essential to strike a balance
between protecting the company’s intellectual property via trade secret versus pursuing patent protection.

The Secerna team provided essential strategic thinking and pragmatism to support Aptamer Group with the necessary IP protection. This enabled Aptamer’s journey to a listed company and beyond, considering their available budget at each stage.

As part of Aptamer Group’s work with third parties, a further challenge involved careful discernment
in allowing the best commercial outcomes for Aptamer Group and its customers while ensuring
Aptamer Group retained ownership of IP generated from this work as far as possible.


“Charlotte and her team are trusted partners and continue to add a lot to our business.”


Growth and success

The intellectual property strategy that Secerna helped establish in the early years of the partnership paid off as the Aptamer Group moved towards listing, with a positive impact on the company’s value.
Having a strong IP strategy to show to board members and potential investors enabled the company to demonstrate market knowledge and reinforce its strategic approach, which also supported its successful floatation on the AIM market.

Today, Aptamer Group is one of the most successful life sciences firms in the UK: a testament to the
drive and ambition of its founders and team.

Aptamer Group CEO, Dr Arron Tolley, says of the work carried out by Secerna, “Having Secerna working with us from the early days of the company has been a massive advantage for us. From very early on, we had a robust strategy for managing our intellectual property portfolio and a clear plan for developing it. This was important as we met investors and moved towards flotation, adding value to the company.