Calculus Portfolio Companies and COVID-19 work – an update

Calculus has long been a supporter of the life sciences sector. In April we wrote about how many of our healthcare companies had quickly pivoted their resources to help play their part in the fight against COVID-19. Over the past few months they have been making important contributions which we would like to highlight below.

Boris Johnson visits Mologic’s lab in March 2020

Genedrive – rapid point of care testing detecting a positive result in 15 minutes

The Genedrive® SARS-CoV-2 POC Kit is being designed to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, amplified directly from a saliva sample without the need to extract viral RNA. This expands the potential use areas of the product and importantly, allows for rapid testing to be performed while a patient is present. When running on the Genedrive® POC device the chemistry is detecting a positive SARS-CoV-2 sample in approximately 15 minutes, with fully negative samples taking just over 20 minutes to resolve

Open Orphan – enters contract with UK government to develop a human challenge study to help the discovery of effective vaccines and antivirals

Open Orphan plc, a rapidly growing specialist CRO pharmaceutical services company, which is the world leader in the testing of vaccines and antivirals using human challenge studies, announced the signing of a contract by hVIVO, a subsidiary of Open Orphan, with the UK Government to develop a COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) human challenge study model. The model development involves the manufacture of the challenge virus and the first-in-human characterisation study for this virus. The Government has secured the first three slots to test vaccines using hVIVO’s COVID-19 challenge study, which we expect start in 2021, each slot reservation has been secured at a cost of £2.5m each bringing the total value of these slot reservations to £7.5m.

Yourgene Health – Collaboration in COVID-19 testing. Supporting the effort to get Britain back to work, school and travel

Yourgene Genomic Services provides a high quality HSE cleared COVID-19 testing service. Yourgene Genomic Services are registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) an independent regulator of health and social care in England.The service uses Yourgene Health’s Clarigene® SARS-CoV-2 test which is a PCR-based assay to detect SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA targets to confirm the presence of the virus. Results are available with a rapid turnaround time from sample receipt. The testing service is available through our network of partners to provide workplace and private testing to enable people to get back to work, school and to travel.

MologicCE marked antibody test

Mologic announced that following successful independent validation by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and St George’s, University of London, the professional-use rapid diagnostic test for COVID-19 has been certified with a CE mark and is ready for manufacture and global distribution. The “triple antibody” test will provide health professionals with an accurate indication of the presence of IgA, IgM and IgG COVID-19 antibodies within 10 minutes. Rigorous independent assessment has shown the tests to have a sensitivity of up to 96% (21-28 days post symptom onset), and specificity of 98.8% (95% CI 96.6-99.8).

Scancell – COVID vaccination supported by an Innovate UK grant

Cobra Biologics and Scancell, the developer of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious disease, announced that they have entered into a collaboration for Cobra to manufacture Scancell’s COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)
production of plasmid DNA needed to generate the DNA vaccine, against SARS-CoV-2, for use in a Phase 1 clinical trial in 2021 (COVIDITY). The project is funded by an Innovate UK grant awarded to the consortium between Scancell, the University of Nottingham and Trent University, as previously announced in August 2020.

Arcis Biotechnology – efficient and quicker diagnostic testing

In response to the shortage of chemicals available for diagnostic testing, Arcis Biotechnology has developed its Coronavirus RNA extraction research kit. This enables users to go from biological sample to downstream testing in under three minutes in most situations and provides all of the necessary reagents to rapidly prepare respiratory tract specimens of molecular testing.

Therefore, within five minutes of a swab being taken from a patient, the sample is ready for diagnostic testing. The simplicity of the process allows it to be used without highly expensive and prohibitive laboratory equipment crucially, this means the test has the potential to be automated, meaning robotics could be used to expedite quicker and more efficient testing.