[Ip-health] U.S. Government funding of Lilly’s LY-CoV555 antibody against COVID-19

Luis Gil Abinader luis.gil.abinader at keionline.org
Wed Oct 28 07:17:35 PDT 2020

Link: https://www.keionline.org/34308

U.S. Government funding of Lilly’s LY-CoV555 antibody against COVID-19

Posted on October 28, 2020 by Luis Gil Abinader

Lilly recently requested an emergency use authorization for LY-CoV555, an
antibody treatment candidate against COVID-19. Like other COVID-19
candidates, the discovery of LY-CoV555 was heavily supported by the U.S.
government. The government of Canada has also awarded millions to
manufacture LY-CoV555. This blog overviews some of the government funding
towards the discovery and manufacturing of LY-CoV555.

DARPA support to AbCellera

LY-CoV555 was discovered this year by AbCellera Biologics, a company based
in Vancouver spun out of the University of British Columbia, in
collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases (NIAID). AbCellera was founded in 2012 to commercialize the work
of their co-founder Carl Hansen, a former professor at the University of
British Columbia. Part of their focus is to develop a “rapid response”
platform to quickly identify antibodies within 60 days after isolating a
viral pathogen. On March 13, 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) awarded AbCellera “up to USD $30 million” to establish a
rapid response antibodies discovery platform.

AbCellera’s collaboration with the NIAID

Following the DARPA award, AbCellera started a partnership with the NIAID.
The company added “leading researchers from the Vaccine Research Center” at
the NIAID to the consortium funded by DARPA. Their goal was to “build an
end-to-end platform capable of developing field-ready medical
countermeasures within 60 days of a viral outbreak.”

AbCellera leveraged that platform to discover LY-CoV555. On January 28,
2020, AbCellera announced that they were mobilizing the platform funded by
DARPA “to discover coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies that could
ultimately be deployed to stop transmission of the 2019-nCoV outbreak.”
They also explained that the NIAID was going to “test antibody candidates
for prophylactic and therapeutic potency against the 2019-nCoV.” On March
12, 2020, AbCellera said that the antibodies they had sequenced were going
to be screened “in collaboration” with the Vaccine Research Center (VRC) at
the NIAID. A preprint posted on October 9, 2020 that reports the discovery
of the LY-CoV555 antibody candidate confirms this collaboration. The
preprint names Kizzmekia Corbett, Lingshu Wang, Olubukola Abiona, Barney
Graham, and John Mascola as co-authors. All of them work at the NIAID,
according to the affiliations disclosed in the preprint.

The manuscript reporting the discovery of the LY-CoV555 antibody also names
Mark Mulligan, Meike Dittmann, and David Martinez as co-authors, all funded
with extramural NIAID grants. These scientists respectively acknowledge
NIAID grants AI148574, AI143639 and AI152296 in the preprint. NIAID grant
AI148574 to Mulligan started in 2020 to fund the establishment of the New
York University Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit (NYU VTEU). The grant
has two projects representing $9,666,265 in costs. NIAID grant AI143639 to
Dittmann started in 2019, and has three projects with a total cost of
$1,033,738. The NIAID grant AI152296 to Martinez started in 2020, and has
one project representing $64,926 in cost. Prior to this Martinez had been
funded by AI007151, a multi-year grant that named other scientists as
principal investigators.

Collaboration between AbCellera and Lilly

Lilly came into the picture recently. On March 12, 2020, Lilly and
AbCellera announced a co-development agreement to discover antibodies
against SARS-CoV-2. AbCellera brought in their discovery platform funded by
DARPA and Lilly their manufacturing capabilities. On June 1, 2020, both
companies announced that they had dosed the first patient with LY-CoV555.
The press release about the first dosed patient explains that LY-CoV555 had
been identified jointly by AbCellera and their partners at the NIAID.

Funding from the Government of Canada

AbCellera has also been supported by the government of Canada. On May 3,
2020, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry of Canada announced
a contribution of $175.6 million to AbCellera. According to the
announcement, this funding was directed to “accelerating and expanding
AbCellera’s capabilities to combat COVID-19.” The funding would also
“support AbCellera in establishing a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)
facility in Vancouver, B.C.” That facility “will be the first of this scale
in Canada capable of going from a patient sample to manufacturing
antibodies for clinical testing.”

Litigation involving patents licensed to AbCellera

Given the typical secrecy rules involving patent prosecution, the patent
applications directed to LY-CoV555, if any, will probably be published in
2021. This hinders our understanding of the patent landscape around
LY-CoV555, including whether the U.S. government is among the assignees or
whether they disclose government funding.

There are, however, at least fifteen published patents relating to the
platform AbCellera used to discover LY-CoV555. These fifteen patents are
assigned to the University of British Columbia and name AbCellera CEO Carl
Hansen as one of the co-inventors. They all have a priority dating back to
2010, before DARPA awarded $30 millions to AbCellera. The University of
British Columbia exclusively licensed these patents to AbCellera.

This year those fifteen patents were asserted in three separate
infringement complaints filed in the District of Court of Delaware against
Berkeley Lights, a company that recently went public. Berkeley Lights
manufactures an automated system called the "Beacon" which can be used for
antibody discovery, cell line development, synthetic biology, and cell
therapy development workflows. According to news reports, several
laboratories around the world are using the Beacon to identify potential
antibody-based treatments against SARS-CoV-2. AbCellera alleges that the
Beacon system infringes their patents.


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