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Avacta confirms Affimer reagents prevent infection of human cells in model of Covid-19 virus

Avacta has confirmed that its Affimer reagents have been shown to prevent infection of human cells by a model of the novel coronavirus.

The research with the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow raises hopes that the reagents could be used in a potential Covid-19 therapy.

Avacta CEO Dr Alastair Smith
Avacta CEO Dr Alastair Smith

It follows earlier evidence that showed the Affimer reagents blocked the interaction between the virus’ spike protein and ACE2, a receptor on human cells that is key to the virus infection pathway.

Whittlesford-based Avacta hopes to court interest from a pharmaceutical company as a partner.

CEO Dr Alastair Smith said: “I am delighted that our collaborators at the University of Glasgow have confirmed that these Affimer reagents not only block the spike-ACE2 binding but efficiently prevent a SARS-CoV-2 model virus from entering human cells.

“This is critical information that will help to establish a license deal with a large pharmaceutical partner that has the resources to carry out an accelerated clinical development programme.

“Neutralising therapies could be given to those exposed to the virus, such as health and social care workers, to prevent infection, as well as to patients already infected by the virus, to help treat and prevent disease progression.

“There is ongoing significant investment by large pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca, GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim and others to develop neutralising therapies for Covid-19.”

Avacta says its Affirmer reagents offer some potential benefits when compared to antibodies as virus neutralising therapies.

Their small size and high solubility means a far high concentration of Affimer molecules could be used in a drug formulation to block the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike proteins.

They could be also be used as bispecific or trispecific Affirmer therapies, which would bind to more than one part of the spike protein to ensure effectiveness should the spike protein mutate.

David Bhella, professor of structural virology in Glasgow, said: “There is significant interest around the world in neutralising therapies for Covid-19 given the uncertainties around the timeline for developing an effective vaccine and deploying it.

“The infectivity assays that we have carried out with the Affimer reagents have gone very well and they show that there are a number of them that are potent inhibitors of a SARS-CoV-2 model virus entry into human cells.

“Given the excellent performance of these novel reagents in the assays, and the other benefits of Affimer reagents, there should be considerable interest from potential partners in developing them as a therapy for Covid-19.”

Avacta said work is continuing with Prof Bhella to study the way in which the Affimer reagents prevent infection to help attract a pharmaceutical partner.

Antigen tests that use Affimer reagents’ ability to detect the spike protein are also in development.

Multinational life science company Cytiva is developing them into a saliva-based rapid antigen test strip that would enable consumers, businesses and healthcare professionals to find out if they have the Covid-19 infection in minutes.

Avacta has signed a deal, including a profit-sharing arrangement, with Medusa19 to supply the rapid test directly to consumers globally, subject to regulatory approvals being achieved.

Dr Smith said: “We continue to make very good progress across all of our Covid-19 related programmes, as well as our other diagnostic and therapeutic activities, and I look forward to providing further updates in the very near future.”.

Read more

Fresh hope of Covid-19 therapy as Avacta reveals its Affimer reagents block key virus interaction

Avacta signs distribution deal for Covid-19 self-test under development

Prototype saliva test for Covid-19 ‘ready in weeks’ after Avacta ships Affimer reagents to Cytiva

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