British Columbia has become a major hub of biotech innovation within the last decade or more, and the popular coastal city of Vancouver is the center of the life sciences sector in the province. In this article we take a look at five of the top biotech companies located in the city.
According to a 2021 report commissioned by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the annual revenue for the British Columbia life sciences sector reached $5.4 billion, and, as of 2019, Metro Vancouver, or Greater Vancouver, is home to 1,300 organizations and 16,000 workers that make up a part of Canada’s ‘bio-economy’.
This makes Vancouver home to some of Canada’s top biotech companies, and here we take a closer look at five of them, listed in alphabetical order.
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Vancouver biotech company AbCellera Biologics is focused on antibody discovery and development, searching, decoding, and analyzing natural immune systems to find antibodies. It partners with drug developers of all sizes – from small biotechs to big pharma companies – in order to push therapeutic programs forward to treat different diseases, helping them move quickly, reduce cost, and tackle some of the most challenging problems in drug development.
In fact, AbCellera actually helped to develop the first antibody therapy treatment for COVID-19, when, in 2021, bamlanivimab, used together with etesevimab, became the first monoclonal antibody medicine for COVID-19 to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
Bamlanivimab is a recombinant, neutralizing human IgG1 monoclonal antibody directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and is designed to block viral attachment and entry into human cells. It was developed from an antibody discovered from the blood of a COVID-19 patient who had recovered from the virus, using AbCellera’s pandemic response platform.
The company recently announced a new $515.6 million project that will add research and development capacity to a manufacturing plant that the federal government gave the company money towards in 2020. It is currently under construction and is set to be producing antibody therapies for clinical trials starting next year.
Acuitas Therapeutics specializes in the development of delivery systems for nucleic acid therapeutics based on lipid nanoparticles (LNP) – which are spheric drug delivery bodies that can be equipped with therapeutic payloads for intracellular delivery, and have emerged as promising vehicles to deliver a variety of therapeutics – and are partnered with multiple pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, and academic institutes to advance nucleic acid therapeutics to the clinic and the marketplace.
By working in collaboration with industry and academic partners, the Vancouver-based biotech company has been able to show the potential clinical application of messenger RNA (mRNA)-LNP as vaccines, protein replacement therapeutics, gene silencing, and antibody therapeutics. Additionally, Acuitas is also evaluating mRNA-LNP for gene editing applications.
It was announced recently that Acuitas and Bayer AG are joining forces, with Acuitas’ LNP technology supporting Bayer’s in vivo gene editing and protein replacement programs, with the goal of specifically delivering RNA payloads to the liver, which is the desired target organ.
Aspect Biosystems’ platform technology combines bioprinting technology, therapeutic cells, biomaterials, and computational design to build allogeneic tissue therapeutics. The company applies its platform to create implantable tissues that replace damaged organ functions to treat diseases; essentially printing materials to be introduced into the human body.
The Vancouver-based biotech company has its initial focus on type 1 diabetes and liver diseases. For type 1 diabetes, it aims to bioprint allogeneic cells encapsulated within immune-protective materials to create functional and retrievable pancreatic tissues, while for liver diseases, it is developing first-in-class allogeneic bioprinted cell therapies.
It was recently announced that Aspect partnered with Novo Nordisk in a deal potentially worth up to $2.6 billion to develop a new class of disease-modifying treatments for diabetes and obesity. The collaboration will use Aspect’s bioprinting technology, alongside Novo’s capabilities in stem cell differentiation and cell therapy development and manufacturing to develop bioprinted tissue therapeutics designed to replace, repair, or supplement biological functions.
Notch Therapeutics is developing a pipeline of cellular immunotherapies from pluripotent stem cells specifically engineered to address the underlying biology of complex disease systems.
One of its main focuses is on ensuring patients receive cell therapy much faster than usual. Normally, cell therapy involves the removal of cells from patients, before being genetically engineered and reinfused into patients, meaning it can take weeks before the therapy is actually delivered.
But, Notch is looking to overcome this limitation by manufacturing T-cells from induced pluripotent stem cells from healthy donors. Due the the fact induced pluripotent stem cells can be cultured at massive scale in their undifferentiated state, it means they can be a potentially limitless source of starting materials for the production of therapeutically relevant cells, and they could allow for cell therapy to be delivered to patients much quicker than therapies derived from the patient’s own tissue.
The company’s lead program is in preclinical development and is aimed at treating hematologic malignancies, in partnership with Allogene Therapeutics. Additionally, the Vancouver company has further programs focused on solid tumors and other indications.
Vancouver biotech company STEMCELL Technologies was founded in 1993 to meet the increasing demands for the founder and chief executive officer’s (CEO) standardized, cost-effective cell culture media for growing hematopoietic stem cells.
Now, the company has a catalog of more than 2,000 products, and has become one of Canada’s leading providers of cell culture media, including reagents, recombinant cytokines, and other tools for the maintenance of cell cultures, alongside tissue and stem cell types.
The company’s products and resources are provided to scientists around the world, and are used for research on stem cells, immunology, cancer, regenerative medicine, and cellular therapy.
As well as various products, STEMCELL Technologies also offers services, which include contract assay services to support customized research solutions, training programs, custom solutions, cell therapy services to support manufacturing needs, science communications, and instrument services to automate key laboratory processes and improve efficiency.