Vancouver-based biotech company AbCellera records record revenue thanks to continued buoyant sales of its COVID-19 antibodies

Vancouver-based biotech company AbCellera records record revenue thanks to continued buoyant sales of its COVID-19 antibodies

The AbCellera Biologics Inc. logo is visible on a door of the company’s offices in Vancouver on December 2, 2020.DARRYL DYCK / The globe and the mail

AbCellera Biologics Inc. generated record revenue in its first quarter as COVID-19 antibodies quickly commercialized by the Vancouver firm continued to provide a bounty of what its CEO Carl Hansen called “undiluting capital” during a tough time. for the biotechnology sector.

AbCellera said that after the market close on Tuesday it generated $ 316.6 million in revenue in the first quarter, compared to $ 375.2 million for all of 2021. Of the first quarter revenue, 97% was derived from royalties on the sales of Eli Lilly & Co., its partner in bringing their jointly developed COVID-19 antibodies, bamlanivimab and bebtelovimab, to market.

AbCellera earned net income of $ 168.6 million, or $ 59 cents per share on a diluted basis. In the same period of 2021, it generated $ 202.7 million in revenues and $ 117.2 million in net income.

Analysts had forecast a strong quarter after Eli Lilly reported generating $ 1.5 billion in quarterly antibody sales. “The quarter was pretty much as expected,” said Antonia Borovina, an analyst at Bloom Burton. “The fundamentals haven’t changed. AbCellera is still executing its long-term strategy to develop the best platform for antibody discovery ”.

AbCellera uses a unique blend of technologies to rapidly extract antibodies after antibodies in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies. It speeds up the process of isolating and identifying antibodies created by the immune system to fight infections.

The company was built around technology developed in an interdisciplinary biomedical research laboratory at the University of British Columbia laboratory, where Dr. Hansen taught, which combines data science, protein engineering, machine learning, bioinformatics and genomics. .

A key step involves passing cells from a person or animal that has developed an immune response to a disease through a device with hundreds of thousands of tiny chambers. Using artificial intelligence, it simultaneously tests the antibodies produced by the cells in each chamber to determine which ones could become drugs.

AbCellera worked on developing rapid medical responses for pandemics previously through a contract with the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in late 2010. This left him ready to respond when the COVID-19 virus spread in early 2020. He quickly obtained a blood sample from a recovered patient, teamed up with Eli Lilly, and at the end of that year the duo got emergency clearance from Food and US Drug Administration to sell their drug.

That unusually time-compressed success often overshadows AbCellera’s other work, which is expected to deliver results over a longer period. AbCellera has signed partnership agreements for 158 programs with 36 companies ranging from startups to pharmaceutical giants and started 84, including six in the first quarter. Six molecules discovered by AbCellera entered the clinic, compared to one – bamlanivimab – in 2020. The agreements are structured to provide AbCellera with upfront research and development fees, milestone payments when drugs enter the clinic and pass tests, and, finally, royalties on the product and balances.

Mr. Hansen went so far as to say “we are not a COVID-19 company” to draw attention to the company’s other drugs under development, although none are expected to reach the market until 2029. Meanwhile , Ms. Borovina expects AbCellera’s COVID-19 Revenues related to -19 will drop dramatically, to $ 32 million next year and $ 21 million in 2024.

Despite AbCellera’s success to date, including the largest initial public offering by a Canadian biotech company in December 2020, its shares have been abruptly sold alongside other biotech stocks since last year.

Ms. Borovina said that “platform” companies like AbCellera are not favorable to investors “because they are capital-intensive, associated with long lead times, and there are no short-term catalysts that could drive the stock up” like the results of the clinical studies. But AbCellera’s windfall from its COVID antibodies, which left it with $ 786.1 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities as of March 31, “essentially protects them from what’s happening in the broader biotech industry. They have the capital to continue developing their pipeline ”or to make acquisitions, she added.

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