Vancouver-based AbCellera and Gilead Sciences forged a collaborative agreement to discover and develop ultra-rare antibodies that can be used in the treatment of a number of infectious diseases.

Gilead is the latest big pharma company to ink an antibody discovery deal with AbCellera. The company also has deals with Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Denali, Teva, Novartis and others.

AbCellera will use its single-cell screening technology in an attempt to find these “needle in the haystack” antibodies that have been difficult to single out from natural immune sources and have, thus far, eluded traditional screenings. AbCellera will apply its single-cell screening of natural immune sources technology to “generate rich panels of antibody candidates” for evaluation by Gilead. AbCellera’s high-throughput microfluidics system can screen millions of single immune cells from natural sources, to identify those with high affinity, specificity or desired functional properties.

For the most part, details of the Gilead deal were not disclosed. AbCellera said it will be looking for ultra-rare antibodies with specific properties defined by Gilead. This is a challenging problem that demands screening depths that are “orders of magnitude higher than alternative discovery approaches,” AbCellera said in its announcement. AbCellera said its technology can “interrogate millions of single B cells in a campaign, an approach that has proven successful in identifying low-frequency subsets of antibodies among large and diverse panels of binders.” Financial terms were not disclosed but under the agreement, AbCellera will receive upfront and research payments and is eligible to receive downstream clinical and commercial milestone payments and royalties on net sales of products.

AbCellera is no stranger to using its technology in the fight against infectious disease. In March, AbCellera announced a two-year agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the prevention and treatment of high-priority infectious diseases, including include HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. That expanded an existing partnership between the entities. In 2017, AbCellera worked with the Gates Foundation on the discovery of high-affinity monoclonal antibodies against 10 biomarkers associated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, the bacteria responsible for tuberculosis. Last year, the company inked a four-year deal with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop countermeasures against viral outbreaks.

In February, AbCellera inked a deal with Novartis and expanded an existing deal with Denali. The Novartis deal is a multi-target and multi-year collaboration aimed at advancing programs for up to 10 targets chosen by Novartis. With Denali, AbCellera will generate panels of antibodies for up to eight drug targets nominated by the company. This multi-target deal expands the scope of the initial collaboration, announced last year that successfully produced potent lead candidates now in preclinical development.



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