15 May 2020
Avacta Group plc
(“Avacta” or “the Group” or “the Company”)
SARS-COV-2 Neutralising Affimers – Potential for a COVID-19 Therapy
Affimer® reagents discovered that block the virus’ interaction with ACE2 which is key
to how the virus infects human cells
Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), the developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, is pleased to announce that several of the Affimer reagents recently generated for development of a point-of-care COVID-19 antigen saliva test have now also been shown to block the interaction between the virus’ spike protein and ACE2, a receptor on human cells that is key to the virus infection pathway1.
Avacta has already successfully generated a large number of Affimer reagents that bind to the SARS-COV-2 virus’ spike protein as part of its partnership with Cytiva (formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences and now part of Danaher Corp). As previously announced, Avacta and Cytiva are working together to develop a rapid point-of-care COVID-19 antigen saliva test to be mass produced for large-scale population screening and for self-testing by consumers.
Further work at Avacta2 has now shown that several of these Affimer reagents block the interaction between the virus’ spike protein and a receptor found on human cells, called ACE2, to which the virus spike protein binds in order to infect cells. Affimer reagents that block the binding of the virus spike protein to ACE2 therefore have the potential to prevent infection and act as “neutralising” therapies.
Neutralising therapies could be given to those exposed to the virus (such as health and social-care workers) to prevent infection, as well as to patients already infected by the virus, to help treat and prevent disease progression.
Large pharmaceutical companies, such as AstraZeneca and GSK, are now starting programmes to develop neutralising antibodies in an attempt to block the SARS-COV-2 spike protein’s interaction with ACE2. Avacta has now demonstrated that several Affimer reagents also perform this blocking function and the Company is now seeking a partner that has the resources available to develop a neutralising Affimer therapy as quickly as possible.
Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, commented:
“This is a very exciting development in the COVID-19 programme. It only took four weeks to generate more than fifty Affimer reagents that bind the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein and amongst those we now know that there are neutralising Affimers that block the interaction with a key human cell surface receptor, raising the potential for a therapy to prevent infection.
Recently GSK invested $250 million in Vir Biotechnology Inc3 to develop potential antibody treatments for COVID-19 by selecting antibodies from recovered patients, and AstraZeneca also recently announced that it would start a programme to find new monoclonal antibodies that block the spike/ACE2 interaction4.
There is significant potential for a therapy that could help prevent infection and limit the progression of the disease, providing immediate benefit to patients. With a large and well-resourced partner, a neutralising Affimer therapy could potentially be developed more quickly than a vaccine and we believe that the likelihood of success would be high.
I look forward to updating the market further on this and on the development of a COVID-19 antigen rapid saliva test with Cytiva which continues apace.”
2. Avacta has carried out competition ELISA measurements (enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) which show that several Affimer reagents disrupt the binding of ACE2 to the SARS-COV-2 S1 spike protein with a range of different potencies.
THE INFORMATION COMMUNICATED IN THIS ANNOUNCEMENT IS INSIDE INFORMATION FOR THE PURPOSES OF ARTICLE 7 OF REGULATION 596/2014.
– Ends –
For further information from Avacta Group plc, please contact:
Avacta Group plc
Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer
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About Avacta Group plc – https://www.avacta.com
Avacta is developing novel cancer immunotherapies combining its two proprietary platforms – Affimer® biotherapeutics and pre|CISION™ tumour targeted chemotherapy. With this approach, the Company aims to address the lack of a durable response to current immunotherapies experienced by most patients. The Company’s therapeutics development activities are based in Cambridge, UK.
The Company benefits from near-term revenues generated from Affimer reagents for diagnostics, bioprocessing and research, through a separate business unit based in Wetherby, UK.
The Affimer platform is an alternative to antibodies derived from a small human protein. Despite their shortcomings, antibodies currently dominate markets worth in excess of $100bn. Affimer technology has been designed to address many of these negative performance issues, principally: the time taken, and the reliance on an animal’s immune response, to generate new antibodies; poor specificity in many cases; large size and cost.
Avacta’s pre|CISION targeted chemotherapy platform, releases active chemotherapy only in the tumour, thereby limiting systemic exposure and damage to healthy tissues, and thereby improving the overall safety and therapeutic potential of these powerful anti-cancer treatments.
By combining these two platforms the Company is building a wholly owned pipeline of novel cancer therapies with the aim of creating effective treatments for all cancer patients including those who do not respond to existing immunotherapies. Avacta expects to take its first drug, a pre|CISION targeted form of the standard-of-care Doxorubicin, into the clinic in late 2020.
Avacta has established drug development partnerships with pharma and biotech, including with Moderna Therapeutics Inc., a deal with LG Chem worth up to $310m, a partnership with ADC Therapeutics to develop Affimer drug conjugates and has established a joint venture in South Korea with Daewoong Pharmaceutical focused on cell and gene therapies incorporating Affimer immune-modulators. Avacta actively seeks to license its proprietary platforms in a range of therapeutic areas.
Avacta diagnostics business unit works with partners world-wide to develop Affimers for evaluation by those third parties with the objective of establishing royalty bearing license deals. The Company is also developing a small in-house pipeline of Affimer-based diagnostic assays for licensing.
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