LONDON: Avacta Group, the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents, announced that in only four weeks and well ahead of schedule, it has successfully generated multiple Affimer reagents that bind the SARS-COV-2 viral antigen as part of the collaboration with Cytiva (formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences) to develop an Affimer-based rapid test for the COVID-19 coronavirus infection. The process of generating new Affimer reagents to detect the SARS-COV-2 viral antigen was started in mid-March, shortly before the Company announced its collaboration with Cytiva. Multiple highly specific Affimer binders have now been generated that bind to the spike proteins of the SARS-COV-2 virus and do not cross-react with other very closely related viruses, such as SARS and MERS. These Affimer reagents will be characterised by Avacta with the aim of developing a laboratory test for the SARS-COV-2 virus antigen within the next few weeks. These Affimer binders will also be transferred to Cytiva shortly for implementation in a point-of-care test strip, similar in appearance to a pregnancy test, giving a visual read-out in minutes using a sample such as saliva. Avacta owns the intellectual property relating to the SARS-COV-2 Affimer reagents and retains all commercial rights. Avacta is in active discussion with other global diagnostic companies to develop Affimer-based COVID-19 antigen tests to increase high-throughput testing capacity on a world-wide scale. Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, commented: "The speed with which highly specific Affimer reagents can be generated is just one of the many significant advantages of the technology. I would like to publicly thank Avacta colleagues who have worked long hours and weekends to make astounding progress and generate Affimer reagents against a novel virus in only four weeks and well ahead of schedule. The need for rapid antigen tests to diagnose COVID-19 infection that can be mass produced for rapid, professional screening of large populations, and for self-testing by consumers themselves, is crucial to limiting and tracking the spread of this disease. Antigen testing will also be critical to lockdown exit strategies around the world in order to get healthy, non-contagious people back to work to re-boot economies, and there will be an ongoing need for several years for antigen testing as the disease recurs. We have made an excellent start to our collaboration with Cytiva and we expect to shortly be able to provide Affimer reagents to Cytiva to implement on their rapid test strip technology. I very much look forward to updating the market on progress with Cytiva and on other commercial partnerships in relation to coronavirus testing that we are pursuing." Klaus Hochleitner, Global Lead, Technology Product Specialist at Cytiva, commented: "I am delighted and impressed with the rapid progress made by our partners at Avacta and look forward to receiving Affimer reagents to implement in a lateral flow test on our platform as soon as possible."