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Covid-19 Antibody Developer Raises $483M in IPO

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(A. Kotok)

11 Dec. 2020. A biotechnology company developing therapeutic antibodies for Covid-19 infections is raising $483 million in its initial public offering of common stock.  AbCellera Biologics Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, trading under the symbol ABCL on the Nasdaq exchange, offered 24.15 million shares, priced at $20.00.

AbCellera Biologics uses what it calls deep mining of B-cells from the immune system to discover antibodies for preventing and treating diseases caused by a range of viruses and bacteria. B-cells are white blood cells in the immune system that produce antibodies, proteins that directly attack invading pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites.

The company’s antibody discovery process combines a number of technologies, beginning with single-cell screening with microfluidics, or lab-on-a-chip devices. AbCellera also uses advanced bioinformatics for further analysis and high-throughput characterization to express hundreds of antibodies.

In March, as reported by Science & Enterprise, AbCellera signed an agreement with Eli Lilly and Co. to develop an antibody therapy for Covid-19. The company says it screened more than 5 million immune-system cells against a blood sample from one of the first people in the U.S. infected with novel coronavirus. From this screening, AbCellera says it identified some 500 unique human antibody sequences that respond to the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19 infections. The two companies partnered with the Vaccine Research Center at National Institutes of Health to assess the antibody sequences to find those that best neutralize the virus.

The result is an antibody therapy, first code-named LY-CoV555 and now called bamlanivimab, a neutralizing immunoglobulin G antibody designed to block the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that penetrates and infects cells. Bamlanivimab is being tested in mid- to late-stage clinical trials among patients hospitalized for Covid-19 infections, and individuals with mild to moderate symptoms not needing hospitalization.

In October, trial sponsors decided to stop the trial of bamlanivimab among hospitalized patients when results showed little clinical value to those patients. In November, however, Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency authorization to bamlanivimab for non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients. And earlier this month, Department of Health and Human Services purchased another 650,000 doses of bamlanivimab for $812.5 million, raising the total quantity purchased to 950,000 doses.

AbCellera shares opened today on the Nasdaq exchange at the IPO price of $20.00, and closed at 4:00 pm at $58.90, almost tripling in price. In contrast, the Nasdaq composite index dropped nearly 28 points, or 0.23 percent for the day.

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