Vancouver company researching COVID-19 antibodies, AbCellera, nominated for 2020 Technology Impact Award

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      This year's 2020 Technology Impact Awards were scheduled to be presented on June 11 at a big public gathering at Vancouver Convention West.

      But because a global pandemic got in the way, it's yet another event that's kiboshed.

      However, COVID-19 didn't prevent the B.C. Tech Association from announcing earlier this week that a company researching solutions to this scourge has been nominated.

      In a Zoom event hosted by broadcaster Riaz Meghji, the association's president and CEO, Jill Topping was joined by Citizens' Services Minister Anne Kang and the parliamentary secretary for technology, Rick Glumac.

      One of the finalists in the "Excellence in Global Export" category is Vancouver-based AbCellera, which is working with Eli Lilly to codevelop antibody products to prevent and treat COVID-19.

      In March, AbCellera announced that it had screened more than five million immune cells. This came after it tested a blood sample from a U.S. patient who had recovered from COVID-19. 

      The company identified more than 500 antibody sequences, the largest number ever reported. Now, the goal is to screen them to determine their efficacy in neutralizing the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2.

      In an interview on the Vancouver Economic Commission website, AbCellera chief financial officer Andrew Booth said the "process went like lightning".

      "In just three weeks, our team went from discovering antibodies in the patient sample to identifying potential drug candidates," he said. "In just three days, we screened more than five million immune cells. Two days later, we sequenced the cells that secreted antibodies that bind to the virus, and found more than 500 antibodies.

      "At that point, we realized that AbCellera needed to partner with a drug development company so we could get a treatment produced as quickly as possible," Booth continued. "We connected with Eli Lilly, and signed the contract within 10 days."

      AbCellera is leading a group in the Pandemic Prevention Platform program. It was launched by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop countermeasures within 60 days to unknown viral pathogens.

      "We innovate and integrate state-of-the-art technologies across multiple disciplines, from AI and genomics to big data and single cell analysis, to build a platform that can tackle the toughest drug discovery challenges,” AbCellera CEO Carl Hansen said in March. 

      Also nominated in the "Excellence in Global Export" category is a maritime-battery creator, Corvus Energy, and a producer of an industrial-battery-recharger, Delta-Q Technologies. The fourth nominee is Vancouver International Airport.

      There are three nominees for "Company of the Year - Startup Success": Apollo Exchange, Carbonet, and NZ Technologies.

      Apollo Exchange is a technology platform that facilitates online insurance transactions.

      Carbonet relies on sustainable and cost-effective water-treatment chemicals for use in oilfields.

      And NZ Technologies created the TIPSO platform, enabling physicians to navigate and manipulate imaging records.

      The full list of nominees is on the B.C. Tech Association website.

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      Lucas Renzo Giovannetti