Avacta Group plc, the science-led healthcare supplier, has announce that a collaborative programme with Leeds University has been awarded a £3.8m grant by the Medical Research Council.
The Wetherby-based supplier of Affimer biotherapeutics and research reagents, will use the grant to develop novel, rapid diagnostic tools incorporating Affimer reagents, to differentiate between viral and bacterial infections, and differentiate bacterial strains.
This joint programme will develop next generation biosensors to differentiate between bacterial and viral infections and also to determine which bacterial strain has caused the infection so that the correct antibiotic can be administered.
This will allow for more targeted use of antibiotics, reducing the number of wrongly prescribed treatments and increasing efficacy for patients, which will contribute to a reduction in anti-microbial resistance (AMR).
Globally, there is an increase in the number and types of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The lack of rapid and accurate diagnostic tools for infectious diseases often leads to inappropriate antibiotic prescription, which has had a direct and significant impact on the increase of AMR, including the methicillin resistance of staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
This also leads to poor control of potentially life-threatening infections such as clostridium difficile, and the continued increase in hospital caught infections.
Affimer technology is an engineered alternative to antibodies that can capture a target, such as a bacterial or viral protein, with a high degree of specificity. Affimer reagents can be used to create accurate diagnostic tests and laboratory assays, and can also be developed as new therapeutic candidates.
The development of the biosensors will take place at Leeds University in the Groups of Professors Christoph Walti (Electronic Engineering) and Mike McPherson (Biochemistry).
Avacta will provide support for the development of Affimer reagents that will be incorporated into the biosensors to facilitate the specific capture of bacterial biomarkers.
As part of the programme, Avacta will have the first rights to commercialise the new Affimer reagents and new diagnostic tests developed under the programme.
Alastair Smith, Avacta Group chief executive, commented: “I am delighted that the potential of Affimer reagents to improve rapid diagnostics has been recognised by the Medical Research Council through this substantial funding. The combination with the innovative microfluidic devices developed at Leeds University is very promising and could lead to a new class of rapid test device.
“There is a growing, global need for diagnostic tests that differentiate bacterial strains. Anti-microbial resistance is a huge issue for healthcare providers and one that is only going to get worse if the prescription of antibiotics is not targeted by accurate and rapid diagnostics.
“This programme fits perfectly with our near term commercial strategy to focus on developing Affimer reagents for rapid diagnostics. It will deliver valuable Affimer reagents that are specific to key bacterial strains, which can be developed into a range of third party diagnostic platforms.
“In the longer term the programme will also deliver novel, microfluidic, rapid test devices, which may surpass existing technologies. This is another example of the continued strong momentum behind the Affimer technology and I look forward to reporting on progress on this and other applications.”