In recent years, AbCellera has established itself as a go-to partner for biopharma companies seeking antibody discovery projects, landing deals with companies such as Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis and Pfizer.
AbCellera enhanced its reputation further still earlier this year when it quickly identified an antibody against the pandemic coronavirus in a blood sample from one of the first people in the U.S. to fight off the virus. Eli Lilly picked up the COVID-19 antibody, now called LY-CoV555, in March. By June, the drug was in the clinic, becoming the first anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody to be tested in humans.
LY-CoV555, like other assets discovered by AbCellera to date, interacts with one target. Another class of antibodies, the bispecifics, hits two targets to trigger effects including the engagement of T cells to drive anticancer immune responses.
AbCellera has positioned itself to serve the emerging bispecific market by acquiring OrthoMab from Dualogics, a US biotech. Dualogics applied the platform to projects including the development of a bispecific treatment of triple negative breast cancer during its years of ownership and has retained the rights to all programs it started before July 1.
The platform enables the generation of bispecific antibodies from two existing antibody sequences. The approach is enabled by mutations clustered in two regions of the antibody scaffold that cause the two heavy chains to assemble into a single molecule.
Other companies have different approaches to creating bispecifics but, in AbCellera’s view, those platforms have shortcomings that are holding the field back. By acquiring OrthoMab and hiring Dualogics’s chief technology officer Tim Jacobs, AbCellera thinks it can help bispecifics fulfill their potential.
“The technological barriers for successful development of bispecifics, including challenges in discovery, pair selection, protein engineering and manufacturing, are keeping many firms out. By welcoming Tim to our team and OrthoMab into our stack, we have consolidated the talent and technologies needed to address these challenges,” said AbCellera CEO Carl Hansen.
At AbCellera, OrthoMab will slot into a portfolio of potentially complementary technologies. Using the technologies, AbCellera could discover antibodies, pair them up to form bispecifics and assess the immunogenicity of the resulting molecules in silico.