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4 June, 2020 - 10:21 By Tony Quested

Avacta raising £45m to fast-track growth

Avacta Group plc in Cambridge is planning to rapidly accelerate its cancer therapies technology through a proposed £45 million fundraising.

It plans to use the proceeds to scale its broader Affimer® diagnostic products opportunities – including COVID-19 antigen rapid testing – and fast-track its in-house Affimer® and pre|CISION™ cancer therapy pipeline.

The growth blueprint includes expansion of the group’s in-house diagnostics product development capabilities spanning facilities, capital equipment, scientific, commercial and senior leadership teams. Commercial partnerships will also be fast-tracked.

Avacta says it is scaling from a strong base. Revenues for the 17 months to December 31 doubled to £5.5 million from £2.76m (12 months ended July 31, 2018). 

Importantly, revenues from the Affimer® diagnostics business increased over the same period, by 135 per cent as more customer evaluations of the Affimer® platform got underway. Avacta says its order intake and sales pipeline into 2020 are “the strongest to date.”

As Avacta CEO Dr Alastair Smith previously revealed, Avacta has entered into an exclusive global distribution agreement with Medusa19 for direct-to-consumer sales of its newly developed saliva-based rapid test for the COVID-19 antigen, subject to regulatory approvals. 

Shortly before this it announced a partnership with Cytiva (formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences) to develop an Affimer®-based point-of-care rapid antigen test (in the form of a simple test strip), to indicate whether a person has the COVID-19 infection. The test is intended to give a result within minutes and is for use by both healthcare professionals and consumers.

Avacta is also collaborating with US business Adeptrix to develop and manufacture an Affimer®-based BAMS™ (bead-assisted mass spectrometry) coronavirus antigen test that will provide clinicians with a significant expansion of the available testing capacity for COVID-19 infection in hospitals.

The consensus view is that hundreds of millions of antigen tests will be required per month to support the fight against the pandemic and initial easing of the lock-down during 2020, and to deal with the long term challenge of endemic COVID-19.

Avacta is growing its senior team in the diagnostics division to include regulatory affairs and product management roles, and expand the commercial and technical teams to support the development and commercialisation of the COVID-19 test and its wider product pipeline.

The group will grow the therapeutics development team in Cambridge and add further clinical development resources to support the transition of several Affimer and pre|CISION therapeutic programmes through preclinical development into the clinic.

The  board anticipates strong near-term newsflow relating to the COVID-19 test developments with Cytiva and Adeptrix, further commercial partnerships to exploit the COVID-19 Affimer reagents and from ongoing commercial and technical progress in the core therapeutic and diagnostic businesses.

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