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8 April, 2020 - 09:59 By Tony Quested

Avacta’s COVID-19 test diagnoses victims in minutes

A rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19 that gives results in just minutes is being developed and manufactured for population screening by Cambridge UK business Avacta and Cytiva – formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences and also anchored in the East of England.

AIM-quoted Avacta develops Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents and the new test is based on this technology. The new test is intended for screening large populations to diagnose coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation recently highlighted the need for the development of rapid tests to quickly diagnose COVID-19 at point-of-care to assist in limiting and tracking infections. 

Existing tests are not suitable for screening large numbers of people for the infection as they are laboratory based and it can take up to several days to get the results.

Avacta is already generating Affimer reagents that detect the COVID-19 virus and together with Cytiva will develop and manufacture a test capable of diagnosing the infection in minutes using a respiratory sample such as saliva. 

Cytiva will transfer this diagnostic assay onto its proprietary point-of-care test strip platform and both companies will work together to complete analytical and clinical validation of the test as quickly as possible.

Avacta will own the intellectual property relating to the COVID-19 Affimer-reagents and retain all the commercial rights to future products. Further commercial details have not been disclosed.

Dr Alastair Smith, chief executive officer of Avacta Group, said: “Importantly the test will indicate if a person has the virus now, whether or not they are showing symptoms and will do so in minutes in-situ with no need for laboratory equipment.

“Unfortunately, many millions of people around the world will ultimately become infected and it is likely to be an annual occurrence. There is a clear and urgent need for a test that can be carried out quickly in the community to limit the spread of the virus and track its progress.

“We have demonstrated before in the case of the Zika virus that the Affimer platform can very quickly provide highly specific reagents in response to an outbreak of an infectious disease. 

“Our partnership with Cytiva means that we now have a global technology partner for a COVID-19 diagnostic which is essential if a practical and commercial solution is to be provided to governments and healthcare providers around the world promptly.

“Hundreds of millions of tests will be needed for population screening and we will be working hard to deliver an Affimer-based solution on Cytiva’s platform – and potentially on the platforms of other partners with whom we are in active discussion – as soon as possible. 

“We are aiming to have developed Affimer reagents for a COVID-19 test by the end of May that can be transferred to Cytiva and potentially to other global diagnostic manufacturers to implement in a test strip.”

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