AbCellera acquires multiple multiyear deals
Company collaborates with Novartis, Denali Therapeutics and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
VANCOUVER, British Columbia—AbCellera, a technology leader in therapeutic antibody discovery from natural immune repertoires, has been busy lately, making deals with several big-name organizations, with the company most recently announcing a multitarget, multiyear collaboration with Novartis. Under the agreement, AbCellera will apply its expertise in antibody discovery and its single-cell screening technology to advance programs on up to 10 targets elected by Novartis.
According to Véronique Lecault, co-founder and director of AbCellera, “Novartis is one of the largest and most innovative pharmaceutical companies in the world, and they have a sophisticated team of scientists working on antibody discovery. When global pharmas come to AbCellera, it is because they recognize that some antibody discovery problems cannot be efficiently tackled with existing platforms. We have an expansive toolbox with IP around multiple technologies that allows us to tailor our approach for each target. We understand that every target is different and comes with unique challenges. For each program, we work in close collaboration with our partners to design the strategy that has the highest chance of success.”
“At AbCellera, we get excited when we have the opportunity to push the boundaries of science. Our team thrives on new challenges. We truly believe that the best science comes from great minds working together, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with the stellar scientists from Novartis,” adds Lecault.
Under the terms of the agreement with Novartis, AbCellera is eligible to receive technology access, research funding, downstream milestone payments and royalties on net sales of products. As Lecault explains, “This partnership includes a significant upfront payment for access to the technology and research payments to fund the work. For us, the value is primarily in the downstream payments associated with clinical development and future commercial success of the programs. Novartis has the option to select up to 10 targets over the term of the agreement, which allows them to secure extended access to our platform.”
Over the past three years, AbCellera has successfully completed more than 30 antibody discovery programs, including deals with seven global pharmaceutical companies and top-tier public and venture-backed biotech companies.
Lecault notes that “[In] general, the types of targets we expect from pharma partners are those where antibody discovery campaigns using other approaches have been tried and have failed. In a single campaign, we can screen millions of B cells. Our throughput is over 100 times higher than other technologies, which means that if antibodies with the desired properties are ultra-rare, it is highly likely we will find them. In addition to our core screening platform, we have many tools to access natural diversity such as immunization methods, alternative species, repertoire sequencing, machine learning and custom visualization tools. By combining the best technologies at every step of the way, it gives us an edge to crack the toughest problems and generate rich data sets from which the best therapeutic candidates can be picked.”
“In the last two months, AbCellera has announced multiyear, multitarget deals with Novartis, Denali Therapeutics, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” she continues. “These deals mark a transition in AbCellera’s business from single-target projects to multi-year discovery partnerships. We are committed to innovation and continue to invest heavily to build capacity for future partners, extend our capabilities and remain at the forefront of antibody discovery.”
The collaboration with Denali Therapeutics is intended to discover antibodies as therapies for neurological indications. AbCellera will generate panels of antibodies for up to eight drug targets nominated by Denali. This multitarget deal expands the scope of the initial collaboration, announced in June 2018, which successfully produced potent lead candidates now in preclinical development. Under the financial terms of the agreement, AbCellera will receive a technology access fee and research funding, and is eligible for milestone payments and royalties based on the development and commercialization of antibodies generated under this collaboration.
“Next-generation antibody drugs hold tremendous potential for the treatment of neurodegenerative and other neurological diseases, one of the great unmet challenges facing our society. Conquering these complex diseases will require that we leave no stone unturned, build strong collaborations and bring together the best in science and technology,” Carl Hansen, president and CEO of AbCellera, said in a news release. “With the vast majority of approved antibodies originating from natural immune systems, the field is recognizing the advantages of immune repertoire screening to maximize chances of success.”
AbCellera has also signed a two-year agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The funding provided, which totals $4.8 million, will support a series of scientific collaborations between AbCellera and Gates Foundation-funded scientists working on the prevention and treatment of high-priority infectious diseases.
The target diseases—including HIV, malaria and tuberculosis—infect hundreds of millions of people annually and disproportionately impact developing countries. The collaboration will benefit from AbCellera’s new technology capabilities for deep profiling of antibody responses. In August 2018, AbCellera acquired Lineage Biosciences, a spinout company that pioneered the use of next-generation sequencing technology (Rep-Seq) to capture the full diversity of antibodies generated by natural immune responses. Rep-Seq complements the unique functional information obtained from AbCellera’s single-cell discovery platform, increasing the diversity of antibodies identified and enabling a more rational vaccine design.
“We’re thrilled to be working with the Gates Foundation again in such a critical area of global health,” mentioned Dr. Kevin Heyries, head of Business Development at AbCellera. “Because our platform can screen millions of single B cells per day, allowing us to identify rare and highly potent antibodies from patient samples, the resulting fully human antibodies can be used for the prevention of deadly diseases for which vaccine development has proven difficult. It’s a fresh approach to tackling humankind’s oldest infectious adversaries.”