Avacta shares soar again on latest Covid-19 test news

Avacta CEO Alastair Smith

Shares of Wetherby-based biotherapeutics company Avacta Group plc rose another 14% on Friday after it announced it entered a collaboration with Massachusetts-based Adeptrix to develop a “high throughput Covid-19 antigen test using Adeptrix’s proprietary bead-assisted mass spectrometry (BAMS) platform.”

Avacta shares rose about 14% to 109p to give the firm a current stock market value of around £225 million. Avacta shares were trading at around 21p a month ago.

“Avacta and Adeptrix will collaborate to develop and manufacture an Affimer-based BAMS coronavirus antigen test that will provide clinicians with a significant expansion of the available testing capacity for COVID-19 infection in hospitals,” said Avacta.

“Adeptrix’s novel BAMS platform combines enrichment of the sample to improve sensitivity with the power of mass-spectrometry to improve specificity. 

“Hundreds of samples per day can be analysed by a single technician using BAMS, exceeding the capacity of single PCR machine, making BAMS a very attractive high throughput technique for COVID-19 screening in the clinical setting.

“The diagnostic test will allow hospitals around the world to utilise their existing installed base of mass spectrometers that are not currently used for COVID-19 testing, thus contributing significantly to the increase in global testing capacity.

“Avacta’s recently developed Affimer reagents that bind the SARS-COV-2 spike protein will be used to provide the capture and enrichment of the virus particle from the sample which could be saliva, nasopharyngeal swabs or serum.  

“Development of a BAMS test capable of diagnosing whether a person has the COVID-19 infection at any specific moment is a quick process and the companies are aiming to have a BAMS test ready for clinical validation, regulatory approval and manufacturing in June.

“Adeptrix and Avacta are already in discussion with large-scale manufacturing partners to rapidly deploy this new high throughput test. 

“Further commercial details are not being disclosed but Avacta will receive a royalty on the sales of BAMS test kits by Adeptrix.”

Avacta Group CEO Alastair Smith said: “We are delighted to have established this partnership with Adeptrix in our push to develop Affimer -based COVID-19 antigen tests.

“Jeff and his team are world-renowned in the mass spectrometry field, and the BAMS diagnostic platform is highly sensitive and specific, giving us great confidence that a high performance COVID-19 antigen test can be developed and launched commercially very quickly. 

“We believe that the BAMS test will be hugely attractive as an adjunct to PCR testing because it uses laboratory equipment that is already in hospital labs but not currently used for COVID-19 testing so it provides incremental testing capacity. 

“A consensus view is building around the world that hundreds of millions of COVID-19 tests are going to be required per month for a long period, and that the disease will be endemic after the initial pandemic has passed, meaning that testing for COVID-19 is going to be needed for many years.

“I have made it clear that we intend to partner the SARS-COV-2 spike protein Affimer reagents with several select companies to support antigen test development on multiple diagnostic test platforms.

“This will contribute most effectively to the urgent need to increase antigen testing capacity globally and maximise the commercial return to Avacta.

“Adeptrix is one example of this and other discussions are underway. I look forward very much to further updating the market in the near future.”

Jeffrey Silva, Director of Product Development, Adeptrix Corporation said: “I am pleased to have Avacta recognise the promise of the BAMS technology with respect to its sensitivity, accuracy and high throughput capacity.

“I have worked with Affimers previously and have found them to be excellent immunoassay reagents, so we are looking forward to quickly implementing the SARS-COV-2 Affimers in a BAMS diagnostic test.

“Mass spectrometry can enhance the diagnostic utility of immunoassays, as it is capable of monitoring both existing and emerging viral strains by accurately measuring the molecular components of the virus.

“BAMS provides an ideal multiplexing platform to obtain higher specificity for monitoring COVID-19 infection.

“We are excited to be working with Avacta to rapidly develop BAMS tests and supply them to clinical diagnostic laboratories.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.