Eli Lilly and AbCellera Team Up to Develop Coronavirus Antibodies

Blood Samples

As COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, Vancouver-based AbCellera and Eli Lilly have teamed up to co-develop antibody products for the treatment and prevention of the virus that was declared a pandemic this week.

The collaboration will leverage AbCellera’s rapid pandemic response platform that has already identified over 500 unique fully human antibody sequences from a COVID-19 blood sample. AbCellera said that within one week of receiving that blood sample, it screened more than 5 million immune cells looking for ones that produced functional antibodies that helped the patient neutralize the virus and recover from the disease. After identifying the sequences, the company said the next step will be to screen the antibodies to find the ones most effective in neutralizing SARS-CoV-2. Once identified, the company will lean on Eli Lilly’s capabilities for rapid development, manufacturing and the distribution of therapeutic antibodies.

Carl Hansen, AbCellera’s chief executive officer, said the company’s platform has delivered what is “by far” the world’s largest panel of anti-SAR-CoV-2 antibodies.

“In 11 days, we’ve discovered hundreds of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the current outbreak, moved into functional testing with global experts in virology, and signed a co-development agreement with one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies. We’re deeply impressed with the speed and agility of Lilly’s response to this global challenge. Together, our teams are committed to delivering a countermeasure to stop the outbreak,” Hansen said in a statement.

According to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker, there have been 135,382 confirmed cases of coronavirus diagnosed across the globe, with 1,701 in the United States. Of those global cases, there have been 4,981 deaths and 69,645 recoveries.

Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said the world is seeking a therapeutic intervention that can speed their recovery or prevent the disease.

“Lilly is committed to playing our part to bring innovation to patients amidst this global outbreak. We’ve partnered with AbCellera because we’re impressed with the speed and quality of their efforts. We are moving at top speed to create a potential treatment to help patients. While typically a new therapeutic antibody program might take years to get in the clinic, our goal with AbCellera is to be testing potential new therapies in patients within the next four months,” Skovronsky said in a statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, AbCellera and Lilly have committed to equally share initial development costs towards a product, after which Lilly will be responsible for all further development, manufacturing and distribution.

On Thursday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Roche’s cobas SARS-CoV-2 test under emergency authorization. Hospitals and laboratories will be able to run the test on Roche’s fully automated cobas 6800 and cobas 8800 Systems, which are already in wide use in the U.S. and internationally. 

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