More progress unveiled in collaboration against Covid-19

York-based life sciences business Integumen has announced progress on its COVID-19 wastewater detection system, Microtox PD, in collaboration with Modern Water plc, Avacta Group and Aptamer Group Limited. 

The company also confirms the unveiling of a personalised COVID-19 breath test, Microtox BT, and its complementary Digital Health Pass platform.

Integumen is working with a consortium of companies to find solutions in the fight against the pandemic. 

The consortium includes Modern Water, Wetherby-based Avacta, Aptamer and a global provider of innovative technology and services for the data era.

Integumen explains that Microtox BT can analyse the breath and detect the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 in real-time for those with a high viral load. 

It has undergone extensive internal testing and will now transition to the University of Aberdeen containment level 3 laboratory. Here it will undergo further tests directly on the virus, followed by a joint trial of up to 5,000 participants.

Results are anticipated before the end of the year.

The company says it believes Microtox BT has the potential to enable instant real-time testing of people within the community.

Meanwhile, Microtox PD has completed initial spike protein testing and validation of SARS-CoV-2 in filtered wastewater. It will also be transitioned to the University of Aberdeen for full beta testing of the system, using real SARS-CoV-2 virus samples.

Microtox PD, for continuous detection of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage, is anticipated for launch in early 2021 and will be distributed through Modern Water’s global footprint of over 3,000 installations.

Integumen has signed Memorandum of Understanding for agreements to be concluded with Avacta and Aptamer for the supply of commercial scale quantities of SARS-CoV-2 binding agents.

Integumen will be granted a non-exclusive worldwide licence to use Avacta’s Affimer technology for the purpose of using the Affimers as a component in the virus detection breath test and the waste water virus detection system.

And heads of terms for a commercial technology agreement have been signed with Aptamer Group, subject to contractual commercial agreement.

Gerry Brandon, CEO of Integumen, said: Integumen has reached a point of Minimum Viable Product/Service using Affimers and Aptamers that bind to the nano-photonic chips and detect the protein spike of SARS-CoV-2 in filtered wastewater and in the breathalyser, and we are confident Microtox PD and Microtox BT are now ready for live virus testing.

The company believes that to enable the economy to re-open fully, the public are going to have to take the responsibility of testing against this virus, themselves. 

“By providing an instant real-time breath test with a digital reader platform, and combined with appropriately priced products, we can drive a consumer-led duty of care for personal COVID-19 responsibility. 

“The current infrastructure for testing of this virus is groaning under the pressure.

“We believe that whilst PCR and Antigen tests are crucial to the diagnosis of coronavirus, we believe Microtox BT and the Digital Health Pass will enable businesses and the public themselves to triage those with infections, creating safer environments with the potential to limit self-isolation to only those that need to.”

Dr Alastair Smith, CEO of Avacta, said: “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 real-time situation analysis.

“I look forward to seeing the results of the planned evaluations of the Affimer-based wastewater and breath analysis systems in due course.”

Dr Arron Tolly, CEO of Aptamer, said: We are delighted to be moving towards the commercial stage with Aptamers embedded in multiple systems that capture the SARS-CoV-2 virus into real-time detection solutions, both in wastewater and the handheld breath test.

“The use of our specific and sensitive Aptamers to SARS-CoV-2 in these assays offers the simple and rapid diagnostics needed to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As production of our Aptamers can be rapidly scaled in a highly cost-effective manner, we can easily meet the required global testing needs across both of the Microtox platforms with this technology.”