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Aptamer Group makes progress in 2020

Aptamer Group

One thing we can all agree on is that 2020 has been a strange year. But for us at Aptamer Group, it’s also been a busy year of good progress and exciting changes. As we come to the end of the year, we take a quick look of some our aptamer-based achievements.

Collaborations to establish new drug screens

Back in January we began a 20-year collaboration with Valitacell to develop a next-generation drug discovery screening platform. This work will use Valitacell’s high throughput platform to rapidly identify candidate molecules that are more likely to succeed in drug development. Aptamer Group’s Optimers will be used as affinity reagents to bind to the potential therapeutic molecules. Aptamer-based molecules are particularly useful in this process because they can be designed to bind to molecules with specific desired properties and engineered to fluoresce when this binding takes place. This allows the specific drug molecules to be rapidly and easily identified from a large pool of candidates, by their binding to specific aptamer molecules. Currently the drug development process takes 10-15 years and costs $2.17 billion for each successful drug. The new platform being developed by Aptamer Group and Valitacell will use aptamers to accelerate the development process, reducing costs and bringing much needed new medicines to patients, quicker.

COVID-19 reagents to respond to the pandemic

Following the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March 2020, there was an urgent need for specific reagents to help study the virus, develop new diagnostics and for use as therapeutics to treat COVID-19 patients. The rapid development needed for these reagents highlighted the shortcomings of antibodies and other protein reagents, including long development times, cost to manufacture and batch consistency. We offer a rapid Optimer development time of as little as 4 weeks and no batch variability via our chemical synthetic production processes.

At Aptamer Group, we put our in-house rapid discovery processes into action, developing and validating COVID-19 specific Optimers in just 17 days. MP Rachel Maskell paid a visit to the Aptamer Group labs and praised our work developing COVID-19 reagents and how we are working to produce next generation aptamer therapeutics. We continue to collaborate with partners in academia, the not-for-profit sector and key companies within the diagnostic and therapeutics industry to advance research and develop novel solutions in this space.

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Expanding and improving our science

We were recognised for the high standard of our technology, being listed as one of the top tech innovators in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. Supporting this Aptamer Group gained ISO 9001 approval earlier in the year, demonstrating our adherence to international standards in providing services that meet customer and regulatory requirements.Aptamer Group

To help us deliver this high-quality science at pace, our team has expanded with the addition of six new scientists, ensuring we can deliver Optimer reagents to your custom targets faster.

With the events of 2020 taking us all further into a digital world, we have updated our website and branding. This should improve the user experience and help you find the information you need more easily about our science and services.

Small molecule aptamers in press!

Developing antibodies and other affinity reagents to small molecules is known to be difficult. Aptamers offer a unique advantage to small molecule targets, being flexible enough to wrap around the target for recognition, rather than bind to a specific epitope as protein affinity reagents do. We have a high success rate in selecting aptamers for small molecule targets.

A newly published paper details a rapid point-of-care biosensor assay for the therapeutic drug monitoring of the chemotherapeutic, imatinib.

Our aptamers were used to detect and quantify the small molecule drug in this assay, and showed:

  • high affinity for the small molecule target
  • no cross-reactivity with a complex plasma matrix
  • no interaction with co-medicines used in the treatment regimens of these patients
  • validation to regulatory standards in clinical samples

This peer-reviewed paper represents the first time that a rapid biosensing assay has met the required regulatory standards for the analytical validation of therapeutic concentrations of the small molecule drug. This approach could be used to improve patient care and healthcare systems for the therapeutic drug monitoring of many small molecule drug targets.

View paper


It’s been a very busy year at Aptamer Group, but we’ve made great progress. We’re already looking into 2021 and have plans to deliver in even more ways to accelerate science with the use of our aptamer technology.


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