20 May 2020
Avacta Group plc
("Avacta" or "the Group" or "the Company")
Avacta and Medusa19 Enter into a Distribution Agreement for COVID-19 Antigen Test
Global, exclusive, direct-to-consumer sales and marketing agreement for COVID-19 self-testing
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 ("Medusa19") 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).
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).
For further information from Avacta Group plc, please contact:
Avacta Group plc
Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer
Tony Gardiner, Chief Financial Officer
Tel: +44 (0) 844 414 0452
finnCap Ltd (Nominated Adviser and Joint Broker)
Geoff Nash / Giles Rolls - Corporate Finance
Tim Redfern - ECM
Tel: +44 (0) 207 220 0500
Zeus Capital Limited (Joint Broker)
John Goold / Rupert Woolfenden - Corporate Broking
Yellow Jersey PR (Financial Media and IR)
Zyme Communications (Trade and Regional Media)
Tel: +44 (0)203 829 5000
Tel: +44 (0)203 004 9512
Tel: +44 (0)7764 947 137
Tel: +44 (0)7951 402 336
Tel: +44 (0)7787 502 947
About Medusa19 - www.medusa19.com
Medusa19 has recently been established by Richard Hughes and Mahmud Kamani, who were both founder shareholders of Boohoo.com, with the objective of building a global "Business to Consumer" ("B2C") medical diagnostics business. In addition, Richard was the founder of Crawford Healthcare Limited and Zeus Capital Limited. The founders have extensive experience in multi-country/global e-commerce, marketing, fulfilment, manufacture and logistics and Medusa19 is investing to have these functions in place ready for on-line sales and support of the COVID-19 test product when it is available.
For further information contact:
Buchanan Communications (Media Relations for Medusa19)
Richard Oldworth, Henry Harrison-Topham, Jamie Hooper
Tel: +44 (0)7710 130 634
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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