Vancouver-based AbCellera looking for coronavirus antibody treatment

May 4 2020, 11:47 am

A Vancouver-based biotechnology company has received $175 million in federal funding to support its research into a coronavirus treatment.

AbCellera Biologics is trying to develop an antibody therapy to fight coronavirus infections, according to a news release from the company on Sunday.

“Each and every one of us is affected, and our teams stand together, galvanized to fight this outbreak,” AbCellera CEO Carl Hansen said. “We are proud to have the support of the Government of Canada to quickly find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At the company’s Olympic Village offices, scientists are examining blood samples from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to find antibodies that can be used to treat and prevent the disease.

Antibodies are proteins produced naturally by the body’s white blood cells that latch onto viruses, bacteria, and other infectious microbes and neutralize them. Antibodies are unique for each pathogen, and it takes the body time (usually a few days) to build antibodies suited for a novel infection.

Researchers at AbCellera hope to use antibodies from patients who’ve already beaten coronavirus to help others who have new infections. It could also use its findings to develop new tests for diagnosing coronavirus infection.

The company received one of the first blood samples from a recovered patient on February 25, and since then has discovered more than 500 coronavirus-specific antibodies produced people who were infected. That work was in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health.

The government money comes from Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s Strategic Innovation Fund. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the West Coast firm would receive the funding at a news conference on Sunday.

In addition to federal funding, AbCellera is also receiving support from the City of Vancouver to continue its work.

“We couldn’t be more proud to be on the front lines of this global effort,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a statement.

AbCellera has also partnered with US pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to develop a coronavirus treatment. They’re looking to start clinical trials of that treatment as early as July 2020.