Life sciences companies enter international partnership to develop and manufacture rapid test for COVID-19

Written by Alex Hyde, Future Science Group

Life sciences group Avacta, based in Wetherby (UK), have entered a new partnership with Cytiva (formerly known as GE Healthcare Life Sciences; MA, USA) to develop and manufacture a rapid COVID-19 test. The test will be used to screen large populations to diagnose suspected cases of COVID-19.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, the need for a rapid COVID-19 test available to use en masse is becoming increasingly clear. The WHO have highlighted the potential benefits of rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests that do not require laboratory processing to assist in tracking and limiting infections.

Avacta manufacture a range of ‘Affirmer’ reagents, which include – amongst others – anti idiotypic reagents to innovator and biosimilar therapeutic antibodies for use in bioanalytical assays. Avacta are already in the process of manufacturing ‘Affirmer’ reagents capable of detecting SARS-Cov-2 – the virus responsible for causing COVID-19.

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The collaboration with Cytiva will allow the Affirmer-based diagnostic assay to be transferred to Cytiva’s proprietary point-of-care test strip. Both companies will work in collaboration to complete analytical and clinical validation of the rapid COVID-19 test as quickly as possible.

The completed test could be capable of diagnosing cases of COVID-19 from respiratory samples such as saliva in minutes. Although comprehensive commercial details have not yet been disclosed, Avacta will own the intellectual property pertaining to the COVID-19 ‘Affirmer’ reagents and all commercial rights to future products.

Alastair Smith, CEO (Avacta Group) explained: “I am delighted that we have established this collaboration with Cytiva to develop, manufacture and commercialize a rapid test for COVID-19 infection. Importantly the test will indicate if a person has the virus now, whether they are showing symptoms or not, and will do so in minutes, in-situ with no need for laboratory equipment. Hundreds of millions of tests will be needed for population screening and we will be working hard to deliver an Affimer based solution on Cytiva’s platform, and potentially on the platforms of other partners with whom we are in active discussion, as soon as possible. We are aiming to have developed Affimer reagents for a COVID-19 test by the end of May that can be transferred to Cytiva and potentially to other global diagnostic manufacturers to implement in a test strip.”

Klaus Hochleitner, Global Lead, Technology Product Specialist (Cytiva), added: “There is an urgent unmet need for rapid tests to screen large numbers of people for COVID-19. Affimers are tools that can be designed quickly and very specifically for specific epitopes. We will support Avacta with technology transfer and usability to ensure the test is ready at the earliest point for use in the field.”

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