Avacta rapidly generates Affimer binders for Zika virus diagnostics


Highlights the potential of Affimer technology to support global rapid response for novel point-of-care diagnostics and health screening

Avacta Group, the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and research reagents, has identified three Affimer proteins capable of binding to a recombinant form of a secreted Zika virus NS1 protein (Non-Structural protein 1), which is diagnostic of Zika virus infection at the early, acute stage.

These Affimer binders were identified and characterised within just 13 weeks of receiving the virus target and have the potential to be developed into new rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests for Zika infection.

The three Affimer binders are highly specific to the Zika NS1 protein and can differentiate in human serum from five other closely related viruses that give similar symptoms: Dengue, Yellow Fever, West Nile, and Japanese and Tick-borne Encephalitis. As these viruses are very similar, there is currently no validated antibody that detects Zika virus specifically, which is a limiting factor in the development of a reliable, quick diagnostic test.

The ability to rapidly generate new diagnostic reagents in response to outbreaks of infectious agents is critical to meeting an urgent medical need, as recently evidenced by the SARS and Ebola virus outbreaks. The very high specificity of Avacta’s Affimer technology, together with the speed with which new Affimer binders can be identified and characterised, makes the technology ideal for rapidly responding to the need for detection and monitoring of new outbreaks.

The group intends to commercialise Affimer-based rapid diagnostics through codevelopment and licensing to third party diagnostics developers, an example of which is Mologic, a UK rapid diagnostics developer, with whom a research and product development collaboration was recently announced.


Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Avacta, said: ‘Avacta’s Affimer technology offers a distinct advantage compared with antibodies in infectious disease diagnostics in terms of both rapid development times and specificity. The identification of these three Affimer binders means that new diagnostic tests could be developed that have the potential to diagnose a Zika infection from its early stages, and would be suitable for low cost, rapid point-of-care diagnostics that could be deployed widely in the field or at US transport hubs for example.’

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‘At the half year, we set out three initial strategic priorities for the Affimer technology, outside of therapeutic applications, in which we believe that the technology has key competitive advantages. Rapid diagnostics is one of those strategic priorities and the news that we have been able to generate highly specific Affimer binders to a significant emerging health threat in such a short space of time is strong validation of those advantages,’ he added.