With the ground broken on a Vancouver headquarters, antibody maker AbCellera will add manufacturing space next door
The Canadian government is looking to raise the profile of the country’s native biotech industry, and British Columbia’s AbCellera is the latest company to benefit from the nation’s strategic innovation fund.
AbCellera has landed a site in Vancouver for a 130,000-square-foot facility to help bring the biotech’s antibody therapies to clinical trials. In April, the company broke ground on a 380,000-square-foot headquarters that will be within walking distance of the new manufacturing facility, set to be built on a vacant two-acre site.
Murray McCutcheon, the VP of corporate development, said in a call to Endpoints News that the novelty of the site in Canada, coupled with the natural beauty and the quality of life that comes with living in British Columbia, will be a huge draw to new employees.
“We’re quite fortunate here on the West Coast here to have great universities and have great talent, but so far, we haven’t had a very big biotech ecosystem, and we’re working to change that,” COO Véronique Lecault said Wednesday.
When the pandemic unfolded, AbCellera was forced to pivot quickly and went from discovery to human clinical trials within 90 days for its monoclonal antibody therapy bamlanivimab, which was co-developed with Eli Lilly to treat patients by working against spike protein to reduce viral replication.
In April though, the FDA revoked the emergency use authorization for bamlanivimab when administered alone, as the increase in variants became resistant to the drug and led to an increase in treatment failure.
AbCellera has discovered a second antibody, LY-CoV1404, that it is developing with Lilly to help address variants of Covid-19. The antibody entered clinical trials in May.
The facility is set to be operational by 2024, and will employ an additional 300 people over the next few years. When asked, McCutcheon said that it is not yet clear which antibodies will be manufactured at the site since it is still years away from completion.
The Canadian government has thrown $125.6 million from its SIF to support the work, in addition, to offer preparedness for future pandemics.
“Although the Canadian angle is an important piece of it, because the government has provided us an important funding commitment, as a company, our partners are global, our solutions are global and the border is irrelevant we will make this available to everybody we work with and ultimately we think it will help us bring therapies to patients faster,” McCutcheon said.
Resilience, the Bob Nelsen project aimed at the lofty goal of rewriting the rules of drug manufacturing, also recently struck a deal with the Canadian Strategic Innovation Fund, which gave the company $163 million to expand mRNA production at the company’s Mississauga facility. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a press conference that the move was a step toward building future pandemic preparedness, and boosting its presence in the life sciences.
“I am pleased to see AbCellera participating in our government’s effort to reverse a four-decade decline in Canada’s domestic capacity,” minister of innovation, science and industry François-Philippe Champagne said. “This is an important step toward improving Canada’s pandemic preparedness, and a driver for our economic recovery.”
Social image: Carl Hansen, AbCellera CEO