Significant step forward to develop rapid COVID-19 test

A listed life sciences company says it has reached the prototype stage of developing a new test to rapidly detect COVID-19.

Avacta, which is based in Wetherby, is working with USA-based Adeptrix to devise the BAMSTM diagnostic test.

The West Yorkshire firm says this test can now detect the Coronavirus spike protein in model samples in the concentration range appropriate for a clinical diagnostic test.

Avacta, a developer of Affimer® biotherapeutics and reagents, has been working with Adeptrix, to devise a high throughput Covid-19 antigen test using, Adeptrix’s proprietary bead-assisted mass spectrometry (BAMS™) platform.

The BAMS assay uses the Affimer reagents specific to the SARS-COV-2 virus recently developed by Avacta to capture the virus spike protein from the sample for rapid detection by mass spectrometry.

A prototype assay has now been developed and evaluated by Adeptrix using model samples containing the Coronavirus spike protein.

The unique method breaks up the spike protein captured from the samples by Affimer coated beads, and is able to identify fragments of the spike protein using mass spectrometry, at concentrations in the range found in patient samples generated from throat swabs.

Avacta says the next step in the development of the final product to run on mass spectrometers in clinical laboratories around the world, is to evaluate and optimise the BAMS assay using patient samples at laboratory sites in the UK and US.

This will be done imminently before moving to manufacturing and clinical validation.

Dr Alastair Smith, chief executive officer of Avacta Group, said: “I am very pleased with the rapid progress made by our partners at Adeptrix and delighted that the Affimer reagents that we have developed to detect the SARS-COV-2 spike protein are working very well in the BAMS assay. 

“This bodes well for all our COVID-19 antigen test development programmes.

“We are now looking forward to testing the prototype BAMS assay with patient samples in the UK very soon, whilst Adeptrix does the same at a site in the US.

“This will keep us on track for launch of a product for professional use in the summer.

“A COVID-19 BAMS assay could provide highly sensitive and specific testing for up to a thousand samples per day in the hospital setting using standard equipment that is available but not currently used for Coronavirus testing thus contributing significantly to an increase in global testing capacity.”