Avacta Group collaborates with Integumen for the detection of coronavirus in waste water

Avacta Group plc (LON:AVCT), the developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, has announced that it has entered into a collaboration with Integumen plc (LON:SKIN) to evaluate recently generated Affimer reagents that bind the SARS-COV-2 spike protein for the detection of the coronavirus in waste water, to provide a real-time alert system to warn of localised COVID-19 outbreaks.

Over 60 percent of COVID-19 positive patients had gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, and the SARS-COV-2 virus was found in their faecal samples. Sampling waste water from households may therefore provide an early warning system for localised outbreaks in communities. 

Recently, Avacta announced that it had generated a number of highly specific Affimer reagents that detect the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein for use in diagnostic tests and in neutralising therapies.

The collaboration with Integumen announced today aims to evaluate some of these Affimer reagents in next-generation sensors, based on the real-time bacteria detection and alert system1 developed by Rinocloud Ltd, a subsidiary of Integumen, with the aim of integrating these sensors into Modern Water plc’s Microtox water contamination system to detect the coronavirus. The award-winning Microtox system, which can detect the presence of contaminating bacteria, virus and toxins, is distributed by Modern Water and has a global footprint of over 3,000 installations. The proposed Affimer sensors would be consumable items to be replaced on a roughly monthly basis.

Once initial testing of the Affimer reagents is completed over the next few weeks, validation of the sensors will be carried out using SARS-COV-2 virus samples in a containment level 3 laboratory at the University of Aberdeen. Upon successful completion of this evaluation, Integumen and Avacta will enter into a supply agreement to allow Integumen to manufacture and commercialise the waste water detection sensors globally by retrofitting into Microtox systems.

Dr. Alastair Smith, Chief Executive of Avacta Group, commented:

“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. 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.

With the spread of COVID-19 continuing to accelerate globally, we are proud to work with partners like Integumen to provide our Affimer reagents for development on a range of platforms to combat the pandemic. This collaboration has the potential to deliver a product that will 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 plc, commented:

“We are delighted to be collaborating with Avacta, adding their highly specific and robust Affimer reagents to our 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.”

1 Remote Automated Water Test (RAWTest) incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) develop in a consortium partly funded by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) https://www.londonstockexchange.com/news-article/SKIN/results-of-ai-water-research-project/14314998

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