VANCOUVER, British Columbia—AbCellera announced May 22 that it had entered into a multiyear strategic research collaboration and license agreement with Eli Lilly and Co. on the discovery of antibodies for up to nine Lilly-selected therapeutic targets. Lilly will have the rights to develop and commercialize therapeutic products resulting from the collaboration.
AbCellera and Lilly were in discussions about the multi-target agreement in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. The companies worked quickly to focus the initial scope of the collaboration on creating antibody therapeutics for the possible prevention and treatment of COVID-19. Lilly will select up to eight additional targets during the multiyear agreement.
“Lilly chose to partner with AbCellera because of their novel technology platform, and it has enabled the rapid identification of lead antibody candidates for our COVID-19 efforts. We’re excited to now apply it to other therapeutic targets,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. “AbCellera’s capabilities and team are extremely impressive, and we are proud of the progress we’ve made together thus far.”
Applying best-in-class technology and custom innovation to each project, AbCellera partners with leading pharma and biotech to enable programs for any target class. With more than 55 successfully completed programs, AbCellera is transforming the field of biologics by reducing the time it takes to identify lead candidates and advance new products towards the clinic.
“By working together seamlessly, our teams have moved with unprecedented speed, and have advanced from antibody discovery to a lead candidate for human testing in months instead of years,” commented Dr. Carl Hansen, CEO of AbCellera. “We look forward to expanding our collaboration with Lilly, working together to continue to redefine how antibody treatments reach the patients who need them.”
Under the terms of the agreement, AbCellera received an upfront payment and will receive research payments for the non-COVID-19 targets. AbCellera is also eligible to receive preclinical, clinical and commercial milestones, as well as tiered royalties on future sales.
The genesis for this collaboration was the news announced in March that the two companies had entered into an agreement to co-develop antibody products for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. That agreement leverages AbCellera’s rapid pandemic response platform, which was developed under the DARPA Pandemic Prevention Platform Program, and Lilly’s global capabilities for rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutic antibodies.
Within one week of receiving a blood sample from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from COVID-19, AbCellera screened more than five million immune cells, looking for ones that produced functional antibodies that helped the patient neutralize the virus and recover from the disease. From this effort, AbCellera has identified more than 500 unique fully human antibody sequences, the largest panel of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies ever reported. The next step is to screen these antibodies to find the ones most effective in neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. Many of these antibodies will be expressed in collaboration with partners at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and pending agreement with NIAID will be tested for their ability to neutralize the virus.