Biotech firm seeks rapid test for COVID-19

17th June 2020

Biotech firm seeks rapid test for COVID-19

Scientists at York-based biotechnology company Aptamer Group are using their expertise to develop a COVID-19 test capable of generating results within seconds.

Using its aptamer platform, in conjunction with lateral flow technology (LFD), the company has devised a specific reagent and is developing a proof of concept point of care test with LFD manufacturers.


Aptamers are synthetic molecules that are made from DNA or RNA that fold into unique three-dimensional structures that allow them to bind to targets.

This means aptamers can be generated rapidly to discriminate between closely related molecules making them ideal for developing point of care diagnostics against rapidly emerging threats.

Aptamer Group uses state-of-the-art in-vitro techniques to create aptamers that are engineered to bind with high selectivity to a variety of targets.

These include, but are not limited to, proteins, small molecules, whole cells, and even whole organisms; meaning they can employ aptamers in the fight against COVID-19.

Dr Arron Tolley, chief executive of Aptamer Group, said: “Aptamers can offer great resources for improving global healthcare by early detection of highly contagious diseases, and therefore preventing their spread.

“We have developed aptamers that bind directly to the virus particle and are developing an antigen test which will detect the presence of the virus in saliva.

“This will enable us to see whether a person is currently infected. This is different to the currently available tests which detect the presence of antibodies to the virus, which shows if an individual has previously been infected.

“We have already developed highly specific reagents to the COVID-19 virus and are currently in discussions with multiple global diagnostics companies who are testing our reagents in multiple test formats.

“We are talking to two of the world’s largest lateral flow diagnostics test manufacturers who have the capacity to produce millions of tests.

“A rapid results test for COVID-19 will be a complete game-changer in the fight against the virus.

“It will enable more confidence in reducing lockdown restrictions, and rapid testing in areas including hospitals and airports will help the Government to manage the R-rate to below one and minimise the spread of the virus.”

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