Message from the CEO

I am pleased to report that the trends mentioned in the last Newsletter continue to improve. We can now boast successful delivery of aptamers to a range of small and large molecule targets for customers in academia, biotech and big Pharma. We are also moving towards integration of aptamers into devices and are in partnership with several diagnostic companies developing a range of novel tests.

Ongoing success has ensured continued investment which has been used to enable the expansion of our robotic automation platform and the expert aptamer selection team. I am also pleased to announce that we are now working with KPMG, one of the world’s leading accounting, legal and management consultancy firms, on the future direction and financial backing for the Company.

Regarding scientific strategy, recent data from an Aptamer Group sponsored PhD project has demonstrated the use of aptamers as delivery vehicles for therapeutic compounds in the form of Aptamer Drug Conjugates (ApDCs). Our long term aim is to develop aptamers as therapeutics, progressing to first in man clinical trials before partnering or licensing.

As always, my team and I would be delighted to hear from you to discuss how aptamers can be utilised as the preferred affinity/binding molecules in your research, drug discovery and drug development programs.

– Dr Arron Tolley (CEO)

Aptamer Selection Against Small Molecule Targets

Aptamers can now be routinely selected against small molecule targets. These are typically <900Da, non-immunogenic and not amenable to antibody generation.

The selection method is different to that for proteins, being based on a solution phase selection methodology that does not require the immobilisation of the target molecule, meaning that the targets can be used for selection in their biologically active form. This process was first implemented manually within Aptamer Group and then fully automated within a 6 month time frame. In addition to rapid delivery, automation improves reproducibility and accuracy in the aptamer selection process.

In the past several months, Aptamer Group has selected aptamers against more than 20 small molecule targets where antibodies were not applicable. By the introduction of counter selection targets, incredible levels of specificity have been engineered into some of the final aptamers. Also, aptamers have been selected to operate in complex matrices such as human sweat and human plasma. These matrices are introduced gradually during selection to ensure that optimal target binding aptamers are identified.

Successful projects have also enabled the development of a biosensor for the detection of therapeutic concentrations of a chemotherapeutic in human plasma and also a number of diagnostic applications.

Innovation from our R&D department

Since the formation of our R&D department, Dr David Bunka and the team have been working hard to develop strategies for customer targets which can be implemented across the complete aptamer selection process.

The steps our R&D team have been making are not only dedicated towards adapting to new projects. During the past few months they have been working on several techniques to be introduced into the rest of the laboratory. Recent methods which have been brought into the selection process allow us to optimise the next round of selection more easily.

Another method which is currently being used allows us to reduce the time required for each round of selection. A key step for progression to the next selection round is the quantification of appropriate aptamers. Previously, QPCR had been used which is a very time consuming process. The new method is able to quantify nucleic acid in a matter of minutes, saving days of work per selection round.

We are excited to be able to pass these developments onto you through the services we provide.

Edward Barnes finishes his PhD research

Over the past few years, Edward has been working towards earning a Ph.D. using aptamer science. Through this time, he has worked at Aptamer Group assisting with the development of new processes and the running of the lab. This month we took some time to speak with Edward about his work, and his time here at Aptamer Group.

How long have you been working with aptamers?
I have now been working with aptamers for more than 6 years. I first used aptamers during my undergraduate degree at the University of Leeds, where I worked under Dr David Bunka, for my final project which required me to use aptamers as an alternative to antibodies. I continued using aptamers during my Master’s thesis at the University of York. When I finished my Masters in 2013 I joined Aptamer Group.

How does your Ph.D. work translate into your work at Aptamer Group?
The majority of my Ph.D. research has been done at Aptamer Group. I have become very familiar with all of the protocols (having developed some of them myself!) that are used in the lab for aptamer selection. During this time I’ve picked up key self-management skills which I am able to apply to my new role as Laboratory Manager.

Brief Updates