Shares in London-listed biotech company Avacta (LON:AVCT) surged on Friday after the group announced progress in their development of a treatment for COVID-19.

Avacta said that they had discovered their Affrimer technology had blocked the interaction of the coronavirus infection with human cells which is a key pathway for the virus.

The Avacta share price had leapt over 30% by mid morning on Friday to trade at 140p. Avacta shares are up 700% in 2020, making them one of the best performers on London exchanges so far in 2020.

The company’s Affirmer technology has been the driving force behind the rise with initial applications in COVID-19 testing now potentially providing a vitally important treatment.

Analysts also noted the possibility for a deal with large pharmaceutical companies could be a material development for the treatment and Avacta themselves.

“Beyond the obvious reputational and commercial, albeit presently wholly unquantifiable, short and longer-term opportunities that could emerge from Avacta’s partnerships with Cytiva and Adeptrix, potential now to also partner with Big Pharma in an effort to develop a globally significant coronavirus neutralising technology, suggests a further major inflection point and opportunity for the creation of significant near-term value for shareholders,” noted Barry Gibb, Research Analyst of Tuner Pope Investments to the UK Investor Magazine.

“Alongside this, the Group also continues to forward its other exciting developments and partnered programmes plus licensing relationships for its diagnostics reagents,” Mr Gibb concluded.

The Avacta CEO outlined the progress Avacta had made with the treatment that seeks the block interaction with the virus.

“This is a very exciting development in the COVID-19 programme. It only took four weeks to generate more than fifty Affimer reagents that bind the SARS-COV-2 virus spike protein and amongst those we now know that there are neutralising Affimers that block the interaction with a key human cell surface receptor, raising the potential for a therapy to prevent infection,” said Dr Alastair Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Avacta Group.

He continued to explain the attention the wider industry was paying to this particular type of COVID-19 therapy.

“Recently GSK invested $250 million in Vir Biotechnology Inc3 to develop potential antibody treatments for COVID-19 by selecting antibodies from recovered patients, and AstraZeneca also recently announced that it would start a programme to find new monoclonal antibodies that block the spike/ACE2 interaction4.”

“There is significant potential for a therapy that could help prevent infection and limit the progression of the disease, providing immediate benefit to patients. With a large and well-resourced partner, a neutralising Affimer therapy could potentially be developed more quickly than a vaccine and we believe that the likelihood of success would be high.”

“I look forward to updating the market further on this and on the development of a COVID-19 antigen rapid saliva test with Cytiva which continues apace.”