Avacta up another 9% as test detects Covid variants

Avacta CEO Alastair Smith

Shares of Wetherby-based biotherapeutics company Avacta Group plc rose another 9% on Monday after it announced its AffiDX SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen lateral flow test “detects the dominant new variants of the coronavirus, known as the B117, or ‘Kent’, variant, and the D614G variant, as well as the original strain.”

Avacta Group shares have soared more than 800% in the past 12 months amid its work on Covid-19 tests to give it a current stock market value of more than £550 million.

Avacta said: “The SARS-CoV-2 virus, like most viruses, mutates over time into slightly different variants.

“Some of these variants are more infectious, and therefore more rapidly transmissible, and have the potential to become dominant strains.

“Early on in the pandemic a variant referred to as D614G appeared, which rapidly became the dominant strain globally.

“The B117 variant, which was first observed in Kent, is prevalent in the UK, has been found in more than 50 countries and, according to Professor Sharon Peacock (Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at Cambridge University) is likely to become the next dominant strain globally.

“Avacta has carried out analytical tests with the spike proteins isolated from both the B117 and D614G variants, and has confirmed that its AffiDX SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen lateral flow test detects both of these variants as well as the original strain.”

Dr Alastair Smith, chief executive of Avacta Group, said: “We are pleased to confirm that Avacta’s rapid antigen test detects the B117 strain, an important variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and one which is especially prevalent in the UK.

“We have also shown that our test detects the D614G variant, the current dominant global strain.

“We will continue to monitor the performance of the Affimer reagents with future dominant variants as they become available to us.

“Since the Affimer reagents we use in Avacta’s range of SARS-CoV-2 tests do not bind in the region of the spike protein where the dominant mutations appear, we do not anticipate that the performance of the tests will be affected.

“Now that we have developed a robust lateral flow test architecture, we can easily insert Affimer reagents that that can be very rapidly developed for new variants if necessary, and indeed in response to any other future pandemic virus.

“Our next key milestone is full clinical validation and CE marking of our lateral flow antigen test which we anticipate will be around the end of this quarter and I look forward to updating the market when that milestone is achieved.”