19th June 2017Aptamer Group Logo


Despite the current volatile environment for small businesses, Aptamer Group continues to grow and prosper. We are regularly delivering aptamers selected against small molecule and protein targets to our customers for a range of applications. The Aptamer Group is at an important stage of its evolution and in addition to collaborating with global big Pharma companies, ongoing investment ensures continued development of our technology platform and broadening of our capabilities.

Our success prompted a visit from Jeremy Corbyn in the run up to the recent UK government election. I would be delighted if you wanted to visit or talk with my team to explore how aptamers could be incorporated into your research, discovery and development projects.

– Dr Arron Tolley, CEO

Evolution of Company Structure

The reliability of our aptamer selection and validation of aptamer function leads us to ask the question; what is next for aptamers?

We strive to be a leading supplier of aptamer related technology, meaning we cannot focus on just aptamer selection. Our mission statement says that we are driven by innovation and the desire to develop transformational technology.

It is this drive that has led to the formation of our new R&D department within Aptamer Group. This department is managed by our Dr David Bunka (founder and CTO) and will focus on improving processes and applications for aptamers. We also plan to build a library of aptamers against specific targets of interest with significant potential utility.

Many customer projects require some R&D before aptamer selection can start. A project we have started for a global Pharma company requires the development of 4 custom libraries to enable selection of aptamers stable at 37oC for the control of gene expression.

By having a separate R&D department we are able to maintain our high throughput and reliable aptamer selection for customers whilst pioneering new uses and applications for aptamers.

Automation at Aptamer Group

At Aptamer Group we use automation to increase our throughput and minimise error from aptamer selection. But how do the robots support the work we do?

We spoke with our automation specialist Stefan Sipika to find out more.

Q: When did Aptamer Group start using automation?
A: Automation has always been part of Aptamer Group. During the past 9 years our use of automation has increased and has been integrated more into our work.

How many robots do we have?
We have 6 robots plus other automated systems. 4 of the robots are used for aptamer selection and 2 are used for preparing plates.

Why is there such an emphasis on automation within the laboratory?
We use automation for a few reasons. Mainly it is consistency as a program will perform a procedure in the same way every time. Also, robots have a higher throughput than a person, multiplying our capacity at least 6 fold. Automated programmes can be run without supervision, freeing up time for lab staff to manage customer projects.

What jobs do the robots do?
They are primarily for liquid handling, working as multi-pipettes. We use them for selections, purifications and analysis. We try to automate every aspect of our work.

What advantages does automation bring to our laboratory?
High throughput. We can select against multiple targets in a short amount of time. They also provide a level of consistency that manual work is incapable of providing.

What is the maximum capacity for aptamer selection?
Aptamer selection against small molecule targets can have 24 different selections happen with quadruplicate runs on each robot. As we have 4 robots for aptamer selection, we are able to run 96 different selections, in quadruplicate, simultaneously.

Who is responsible for using the automation equipment?
We are all responsible. Every lab team member is trained to use the robots. Dedicated staff are responsible for programming them, so there is no risk in the programs changing.

An Aptamer Group robot performing aptamer selection.

Small Molecule Case Study

With the development of our aptamer selection to small molecules we have been further pushing the limits to find out what aptamers can detect. By adding counter-selection into the aptamer selection process we are able to differentiate between small molecules differing by just one functional group.

A recent example of this has been during aptamer selection for a small molecule where the counter selection molecule differed from the target of interest by a dipiperidine group. As seen in the data below, the population of aptamers binding to the target was reduced in round 7 with the introduction of the counter selection molecule. In round 8 the population of target binding aptamers increases greater than that of the counter-selection molecule. As the target aptamer needs to be functional in human blood plasma this was also included for counter-selection from round 9 onwards.

Real data showing counter selection when selection an aptamer to a small molecule target.

This data shows that our aptamers have a degree of specificity which many other binding molecules are unable to achieve. We will continue to push the limits to show what aptamers can achieve.

If you would like to read more about the exquisite specificity of aptamer selection click here.

As Aptamer Group continues to grow, we are pleased to welcome our new Sales & Marketing Executive, Joel Sutcliffe.

Joel holds a B.Sc (Hons) in Biochemistry from Sheffield Hallam University during which he did a one year work placement at a top medical diagnostics company in Germany. Whilst on placement he worked to develop a microarray test kit for STIs. Joel has worked in a number of roles to develop his communication and customer engagement skills.

At Aptamer Group he is responsible for ensuring that customer communications are relevant and timely, particularly responses to new project enquiries.

Through the course of 2017 our volume of work has continued to increase. Because of this we have ongoing recruitment. To find out more about current opportunities at Aptamer Group please click on the following link: Careers.

Brief Updates

  • The Aptamer Group website has been updated to make it faster and more user friendly.
  • Look out for Aptamer Group information in European Biopharmaceutical Review through 2017.
  • We perform our aptamer selections in a GLP like environment to enable project control and delivery.
  • In addition to aptamer selection, we can modify aptamers and support integration into devices, purification columns etc, to help you evaluate their utility for the intended application.

AptaSol – starting with the end in mind.