Avacta Group PLC (AVCT.L) Update on Affimer® Therapy for COVID-19 Infection

Infectivity assays carried out in collaboration with Glasgow University show that Affimer reagents prevent infection of human cells by a SARS-COV-2 model virus

Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents, is pleased to announce that collaborative work with the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow has shown that Affimer reagents which bind to the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein prevent infection of human cells by a SARS-COV-2 model virus and therefore provide a potential therapy for COVID-19 infection.

Recently, Avacta reported that several of the Affimer reagents that had been generated to develop COVID-19 antigen tests inhibited the interaction between the coronavirus’ spike protein and a receptor found on human cells, called ACE2, which the virus spike protein binds to as the first step in infecting cells.

Avacta has now successfully completed the initial phase of a collaboration with Professor David Bhella at the University of Glasgow showing that these “neutralising” Affimer reagents prevent a SARS-COV-2 model virus from entering human cells and therefore provide a potential therapy for COVID-19.

Affimer reagents have key benefits compared with antibodies as virus neutralising therapies: Their small size and high solubility means that a much higher concentration of Affimer molecules can be used in the drug formulation to more effectively block the spike proteins on each virus particle and better protect the patient; bispecific and trispecific Affimer neutralising therapies that bind to more than one part of the spike protein could ensure the effectiveness of the neutralising therapy even if the virus’ spike protein mutates.

Work is continuing with Professor Bhella to further study the way in which the Affimer reagents prevent infection and Avacta is using this growing body of data actively to secure a large pharmaceutical partner to develop these potential therapeutic candidates rapidly.

Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, commented:

“I am delighted that our collaborators at the University of Glasgow have confirmed that these Affimer reagents not only block the spike-ACE2 binding but efficiently prevent a SARS-COV-2 model virus from entering human cells. This is critical information that will help to establish a license deal with a large pharmaceutical partner that has the resources to carry out an accelerated clinical development programme.

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. T here is ongoing significant investment by large pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca, GSK, Boehringer Ingelheim and others to develop neutralising therapies for COVID-19.

We continue to make very good progress across all of our COVID-19 related programmes, as well as our other diagnostic and therapeutic activities, and I look forward to providing further updates in the very near future.”

Professor David Bhella, Professor of Structural Virology (Centre for Virus Research) at the University of Glasgow, commented:

“There is significant interest around the world in neutralising therapies for COVID-19 given the uncertainties around the timeline for developing an effective vaccine and deploying it.

The infectivity assays that we have carried out with the Affimer reagents have gone very well and they show that there are a number of them that are potent inhibitors of a SARS-COV-2 model virus entry into human cells.

Given the excellent performance of these novel reagents in the assays, and the other benefits of Affimer reagents, there should be considerable interest from potential partners in developing them as a therapy for COVID-19.”

This announcement contains information which, prior to its disclosure, was considered inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No 596/2014 (MAR).

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 later in 2020 or early 2021.

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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