Avacta Group plc (AIM: AVCT), the developer of Affimer biotherapeutics and reagents, is pleased to announce that it has entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Medusa19 Limited for direct-to-consumer sales of a saliva-based rapid test for the COVID-19 antigen.
Avacta recently announced a partnership with Cytiva (formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences) to develop a saliva-based rapid antigen test to indicate whether a person has the COVID-19 infection which will be in the form of a simple test strip. The test is intended to give a result within minutes and for use by both healthcare professionals and consumers.
The Group has agreed an exclusive distribution agreement with Medusa19 for the supply of the COVID-19 rapid test direct to consumers globally, subject to the necessary regulatory approvals. Medusa19 has been established by Richard Hughes and Mahmud Kamani, both founder shareholders of Boohoo.com and shareholders of Avacta1, to build a global consumer self-testing business. Medusa19’s initial focus will be on COVID-19 home testing and it is currently investing in global e-commerce, logistics and customer support infrastructure in preparation for Avacta’s COVID-19 test launch. Medusa19 will also have non-exclusive rights to supply the tests to businesses for workforce testing. The distribution agreement includes a profit-sharing arrangement.
The global demand for rapid antigen tests, which will be critical to lockdown exit strategies around the world in order to get healthy, non-contagious people back to work, could be many millions of tests per month. There will also be an ongoing need for several years for this type of testing as the disease recurs.
Avacta recently announced that it rapidly developed Affimer reagents that detect the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein and it has now supplied those to Cytiva for test development. The Group is intending to establish further rapid test strip manufacturing partners in anticipation of a very high demand for the COVID-19 antigen test.
Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group, commented:
“I am delighted to have entered into this distribution agreement with Medusa19, which will provide a global route direct-to-consumer for Avacta’s rapid point-of-care COVID-19 antigen test. The potential size of this market, and the expected demand from businesses for workforce screening, is substantial.
The significant investment that Medusa19 is making in conjunction with the track records of the Medusa19 team, gives me great confidence in the rapid growth of direct-to-consumer sales of the Avacta COVID-19 test across the United Kingdom, European Union and the United States subject to the necessary regulatory approvals. I expect the commercial impact of this partnership to be very significant to Avacta.
I am looking forward to working with the Medusa19 team on commercialising the COVID-19 rapid test and other consumer diagnostic tests that Avacta develops in the future, in line with the Group’s Affimer diagnostics strategy.”
Richard Hughes and Mahmud Kamani, Founders of Medusa19 commented:
“We immediately recognised the global opportunity to distribute the simple and unique saliva-based COVID-19 rapid test being developed by Avacta based on their unique and powerful Affimer platform.
Medusa19 will enable end-to-end supply of these tests on a global basis subject to regulatory approval and manufacturing capacity which will be key. The enormous, world-wide demand for these tests requires a robust and scalable platform which we are in the process of creating. Hundreds of millions of tests are required and this demand will continue.
The test being created by Avacta and its partners is intended to enable an individual with the COVID-19 infection, whether they have symptoms or not, to be identified before antibodies have been generated by the body. Given this test will be saliva based, it could be used in airports, offices, factories and in the home environment, providing a result within minutes and with no requirement for medical supervision. It is potentially ground-breaking and a major step forward in the fight against COVID-19.
We look forward to working with Alastair and his team and to distributing other Avacta products as they become available in due course.”
1 Clare Hughes (wife of Richard Hughes) and Umar Mahmud Kamani (son of Mahmud Kamani).