Antibody drug tech firm AbCellera raises $105 million as it works on COVID-19

(Reuters) – Canadian drug discovery technology company AbCellera, which analyzes and identifies antibodies for pharmaceutical companies working on a coronavirus treatment and other medicines, said on Wednesday it had raised $105 million in funds.

AbCellera has been working with pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) which is developing a coronavirus drug based on antibodies from patients that have recovered from the disease.

AbCellera uses computer vision and machine learning to quickly analyze data from human samples, and pharmaceutical clients then use that to develop drugs, AbCellera Chief Executive Carl Hansen said.

The human sample is inserted into a device the size of a credit card that has over 250,000 “chambers.” A computer checks human antibodies secreted into the chambers by sample cells to determine which has the best properties for fighting a certain disease and is worth developing, he said.

AbCellera is paid an upfront fee for the work from drug companies, and also payments for milestones of the development and eventually a small royalty as well, Hansen said.

Funds raised through AbCellera’s latest funding round will be used to hire about 100 more employees, mostly in software and data science, Hansen said, adding that the company currently has 140 employees and plans to open a new 48,000-square-foot R&D facility next year.

In addition to the latest funding round, led by venture capital firms OrbiMed and existing investor DCVC Bio, AbCellera also won a $124 million grant from the Canadian government this month to help build a manufacturing facility for antibody drug making that would help in future pandemics, said Hansen.

AbCellera said it has identified antibody candidates for drug development in diseases including cancer, immuno-oncology, pain, and metabolic disorders.

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