Direct Investments

Portfolio companies collaborate against COVID-19

Mercia Asset Management PLC today announces that two of its direct portfolio companies, The Native Antigen Company Limited (“NAC”) and Oxford Genetics Limited (trading as “OXGENE”) have formed a new strategic partnership to scale up COVID-19 antigen production.

Current COVID-19 tests use the polymerase chain reaction that detects the virus’s genome. Although an important first step, these tests can only detect ongoing COVID-19 infections. NAC’s antigens, already supplied on a global basis, can be used to develop smaller, point-of-care antibody test kits that could also be used on a mass basis at the community level for the confirmation of historic COVID-19 infection and provide research agents for the development of vaccine candidates. This partnership will see both companies working together towards developing more scalable technologies for cost-effective infectious disease reagent production.

NAC was one of the first companies to release COVID-19 antigens and needs to scale production to meet increasing demand. OXGENE has developed a proprietary technology which offers a highly scalable means of protein production, in this case COVID-19 antigens. The partnership will enable large-scale production of high-quality COVID-19 antigens, which is a critical step toward the development of diagnostics and vaccines for this global challenge.

Mercia has backed both businesses from seed investment and currently holds fully diluted equity stakes of 30.6% in NAC and 30.2% in OXGENE.

Dr Andy Lane, Commercial Director, The Native Antigen Company, said: “We are committed to developing the highest-quality reagents in rapid response to emerging epidemic diseases. Since the start of the crisis, the demand for our COVID-19 antigens has increased significantly, and by scaling up production of these vital reagents in collaboration with OXGENE, we hope to be able to support more researchers in their critical work developing diagnostics and vaccines.”

Dr Ryan Cawood, Chief Executive, OXGENE, said: “Our novel Protein Machine Technology represents a significant development in the rapid and scalable generation of high-quality viral proteins. We’re delighted that by collaborating with The Native Antigen Company, we can take advantage of our technology to support the needs of researchers racing to develop much-needed diagnostics and vaccines against COVID-19.”

Dr Mark Payton, CEO, Mercia Asset Management, said: “The Native Antigen Company and OXGENE have world-leading technologies and their partnership could be a significant step forward in the fight against Covid-19. Mercia has supported both companies since their foundation and we are proud of the work they are doing to support the UK’s response to Covid-19. It demonstrates the wealth of talent and innovation within the UK’s science base and the value of collaboration. In particular, it shows how important it is that even during these difficult times we continue to invest in and nurture early-stage technology businesses which will find solutions to the major global challenges we face, both now and in the future.”