AIM-listed biotechnology firm Avacta Group (LON:AVCT) watched its shares surge 33.92% to 142.62p (as of 13:35 BST) after reagents developed for use in COVID-19 testing were found to block part of the viral infection pathway. The company is seeking a partner to develop a neutralising therapy as fast as possible.
CEO Dr. Alastair Smith 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“.