Listed life science business, Avacta Group, has entered into a collaboration with Integumen to evaluate recently generated Affimer reagents to detect COVID-19 in wastewater.
The Affirmer reagents work by binding to the SARS-COV-2 spike protein, allowing for the detection of the coronavirus in wastewater. The aim is to provide a real-time alert system to warn of localised COVID-19 outbreaks.
Over 60% of COVID-19 positive patients had gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, and the SARS-COV-2 virus was found in their faecal samples. Sampling wastewater from households may therefore provide an early warning system for localised outbreaks in communities.
Recently, Avacta announced that it had generated a number of highly specific Affimer reagents that detect the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein for use in diagnostic tests and in neutralising therapies.
The collaboration aims to evaluate some of these Affimer reagents in next-generation sensors, based on the real-time bacteria detection and alert system developed by Rinocloud – a subsidiary of Integumen – with the aim of integrating these sensors into Modern Water plc’s Microtox water contamination system to detect the coronavirus.
The Microtox system, which can detect the presence of contaminating bacteria, virus and toxins, is distributed by Modern Water and has a global footprint of over 3,000 installations. The proposed Affimer sensors would be consumable items to be replaced on a roughly monthly basis.
Once initial testing of the Affimer reagents is completed over the next few weeks, validation of the sensors will be carried out using SARS-COV-2 virus samples in a containment level 3 laboratory at the University of Aberdeen.
Upon successful completion of this evaluation, Integumen and Avacta will enter into a supply agreement to allow Integumen to manufacture and commercialise the wastewater detection sensors globally by retrofitting into Microtox systems.
“This collaboration has the potential to deliver a product that will play a crucial role in the early detection of COVID-19 hotspots around the world,” said Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive of Avacta Group.
Gerard Brandon, CEO of Integumen and Chairman of Modern Water, added: “The global pandemic has highlighted wastewater as a potential early warning hotspot detection opportunity and the inclusion of Affimer reagents adds an established method of capturing the virus to a widely used pathogen alert system.”
This latest collaboration follows news in June that York biotech business, Aptamer Group, has signed an agreement with Integumen to develop and manufacture aptamers to detect SARS-COV-2 in wastewater.