AbCellera responds to future pandemic threat with $190m+ Canadian facility

AbCellera will build a manufacturing facility in Vancouver, Canada to prepare for future pandemics and advance their own clinical pipeline.

The 130,000 square-foot Vancouver facility will produce therapeutic antibodies making it the first of its kind in Canada.

The facility will not be used to support any COVID-19 related products.

Image: iStock/natasaadzic

However, in-country manufacturing of antibodies is “important for Canada because it fills a major gap in our ability as a nation to respond to future pandemics,” Murray McCutcheon, vice president, Corporate Development at AbCellera told us.

“AbCellera is a global leader in finding therapeutic antibodies, but we have no capacity to make clinical-grade quantities here in Canada. We’re excited by the opportunity to extend our tech stack to not only discover therapeutic antibody leads but also develop and manufacture them for clinical trials, ultimately accelerating the delivery of new therapies to patients.”

The facility is part funded by a $125.6 million grant from the Canadian government’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) used to support AbCellera’s effort and the country’s capability to respond quickly to future pandemics.

“This is a multi-year project, so the final costs will depend on many factors,” McCutcheon said.

He added: “It is currently estimated that it will cost more than $190 million [and] the majority of the SIF funding commitment will be directed to the facility. This is a funding commitment from the government of Canada, and AbCellera is matching that funding.”

The facility is expected to be ready for manufacturing by early 2024.

Vancouver awaits

AbCellera is expected to hire more than 100 employees in advance of opening the facility in 2024.

“In the longer term, at full capacity we expect hundreds of employees to support the manufacturing and its integration into our CMC and translational teams,” McCutcheon told BioProcess Insider.

He commented on the recruitment process, saying: “We have a multidisciplinary team and are looking for a combination of software engineers, data scientists, biochemists, microbiologists. Then we’ll be expanding to bioprocess engineers, experts in cell line development, process development, formulation, and quality assurance and control.

“As we get ready for the GMP manufacturing facility, we also need all the business professionals to support the operation.”