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22 April, 2020 - 09:22 By Tony Quested

Avacta’s rapid COVID-19 test ahead of schedule

After just four weeks and well ahead of schedule, Avacta Group has successfully generated multiple reagents that bind the SARS-COV-2 viral antigen to develop a rapid test for COVID-19.

The Cambridge UK life science business is collaborating with Cytiva – formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences – on the project.

The process of generating new reagents based on Avacta’s Affimer technology to detect the SARS-COV-2 viral antigen was started in mid-March, shortly before the company announced its collaboration with Cytiva. 

Multiple highly specific Affimer binders have now been generated that bind to the spike proteins of the SARS-COV-2 virus and do not cross-react with other very closely related viruses, such as SARS and MERS.

These reagents will be characterised by Avacta with the aim of developing a laboratory test for the SARS-COV-2 virus antigen within the next few weeks. These Affimer binders will also be transferred to Cytiva shortly for implementation in a point-of-care test strip, similar in appearance to a pregnancy test, giving a visual read-out in minutes using a sample such as saliva.

Avacta owns the intellectual property relating to the SARS-COV-2 Affimer reagents and retains all commercial rights. It is in active talks with other global diagnostic companies to develop Affimer-based COVID-19 antigen tests to increase high-throughput testing capacity on a world-wide scale.

CEO Dr Alastair Smith said: “The speed with which highly specific Affimer reagents can be generated is just one of the many significant advantages of the technology.

“I would like to publicly thank Avacta colleagues who have worked long hours and weekends to make astounding progress and generate Affimer reagents against a novel virus in only four weeks and well ahead of schedule.

“The need for rapid antigen tests to diagnose COVID-19 infection that can be mass produced for professional screening of large populations, and for self-testing by consumers themselves, is crucial to limiting and tracking the spread of this disease. 

“Antigen testing will also be critical to lockdown exit strategies around the world in order to get healthy, non-contagious people back to work to re-boot economies, and there will be an ongoing need for several years for antigen testing as the disease recurs.

“We have made an excellent start to our collaboration with Cytiva and we expect to shortly be able to provide Affimer reagents to Cytiva to implement on their rapid test strip technology.”

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