Avacta signs Covid sewage test deal with Integumen
Biotherapeutics company Avacta Group has entered into a collaboration with its AIM peer Integumen, it announced on Monday, to evaluate recently-generated Affimer reagents that bind the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein for the detection of the coronavirus in wastewater, to provide a real-time alert system to warn of localised Covid-19 outbreaks.
The firm said more than 60% of Covid-19 positive patients had gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, with the SARS-CoV-2 virus found in their faecal samples.
Sampling wastewater from households could thus provide an early warning system for localised outbreaks in communities.
Recently, Avacta said it had generated a number of highly-specific Affimer reagents that detected the SARS-C0V-2 virus spike protein, for use in diagnostic tests and in neutralising therapies.
The board aid the collaboration with Integumen aimed to evaluate some of those Affimer reagents in “next-generation” sensors, based on the real-time bacteria detection and alert system developed by Rinocloud - a subsidiary of Integumen - with the aim of integrating those sensors into Modern Water’s Microtox water contamination system to detect the coronavirus.
Avacta said the Microtox system, which can detect the presence of contaminating bacteria, virus and toxins, was distributed by the AIM-traded Modern Water, with more than 3,000 installations globally.
The proposed Affimer sensors would be consumable items, to be replaced on a roughly monthly basis.
Once initial testing of the Affimer reagents was completed in the coming weeks, validation of the sensors would be carried out using SARS-CoV-2 virus samples in a containment level 3 laboratory at the University of Aberdeen.
Upon successful completion of the evaluation, Integumen and Avacta would enter into a supply agreement to allow Integumen to manufacture and commercialise the waste water detection sensors globally, by retrofitting into Microtox systems.
“I am very pleased to be entering into this collaboration with Integumen, which holds substantial commercial potential for an Affimer-based consumable SARS-CoV-2 detector unit to retrofit into the globally-installed base of Microtox systems,” said Avacta chief executive officer Dr Alastair Smith.
“Affimer reagents are ideal for applications such as this, not only because of their sensitivity and specificity, but also because of their robustness, which is essential when being deployed in real-world situations, such as real-time waste water analysis.”
Dr Smith said that with the spread of Covid-19 continuing to accelerate globally, the collaboration had the potential to deliver a product that would play a crucial role in the early detection of Covid-19 hotspots around the world.
“I look forward to updating the market very soon on progress with Integumen and our other Covid-19 related programmes.”
Gerard Brandon, CEO of Integumen and chairman of Modern Water, added that the companies were “delighted” to be collaborating with Avacta, adding their “highly specific and robust” Affimer reagents to its “real-time alert arsenal” of pathogen-capture devices for the Covid-19 virus in sewage.
“The global pandemic has highlighted waste water as a potential early warning hotspot detection opportunity and the inclusion of Affimer reagents adds an established method of capturing the virus to a widely used pathogen alert system.”
At 0916 BST, shares in Avacta Group were down 2.01% at 117.1p, while those in Integumen were up 10.53% at 2.1p and Modern Water was ahead 16.05% at 2.15p.