Véronique Lecault is on the front line since the very beginning of the crisis, in Vancouver. His company, AbCellera, was quickly isolated antibodies that can fight the COVID-19 and will be one of the first to test the treatment on humans this summer.
A native of Mirabel, Quebec lives in the West for several years.
She co-founded the biotech AbCellera, in 2012, that specializes in therapies based on antibodies grown in the laboratory.
These files can then be administered to an infected patient that is in need of a ” boost the immune to fight the virus “, she says in an interview.
“When one receives a vaccine, it takes time for it to work. The body naturally produces antibodies in a few weeks, but we are short-circuiting the process to directly inject antibodies that have the ability to neutralize the virus. ”
AbCellera was one of the first in North America to receive a blood sample of a patient cured, on the 25th of February.
Thanks to the platform it has developed, it only took three days to screen for five millions of immune cells (B-lymphocytes) and other two days in order to identify the genetic sequence of 500 antibodies that have the properties required to fight against the SARS-CoV-2.
“We’ve developed internal tools to be able to analyze an extreme amount of data” in a very short time, ” says Ms. Lecault, head of operations at AbCellera.
The best antibody candidates were then selected and can be reproduced on a large scale thanks to its partner, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.
Chinese hamster cells
“When one has the sequence of an antibody, it has the recipe to be able to produce. To make antibodies synthetic, are generally used for chinese hamster cells […] and they are grown in bioreactors. At the end of the process, we put the antibodies in a formulation stable and sterile for patients. ”
Clinical trials should begin as soon as July.
“We speak of several years, usually, to begin testing on humans, but we, we did this in four months, so it really is trying to reduce dramatically the time it takes to bring a therapy on the market,” she said, without, however, being able to say when the treatment might be available.
Financial assistance of$ 175-Million
Impressed by these promising results, the government of Justin Trudeau’s bet big on this step and it has received substantial financial assistance of$ 175-Million.
“We are very grateful and it is a great responsibility. It is still more than two years, we are developing our platform to be ready in the event of a pandemic, but to have the resources that help us accelerate our efforts, it makes a huge difference, ” says Ms. Lecault.
AbCellera in brief
- Founded in 2012 in Vancouver on the basis of a technology developed by Dr. Carl Hansen in the laboratories Michael Smith of the University of British Columbia
- More than 110 employees in programming and data science, immunology, characterization and protein engineering
- Partnerships with six of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, including Novartis, Gilead and Pfizer
- She has been selected to receive one of the first blood samples of a patient who has defeated the COVID-19 in North America because of its simulations carried out since 2018, in the event of a pandemic, for the account of an agency of the us Defense department