Comments on AbCellera’s recent IPO— Vancouver Biotech Part of Global COVID19 Response!

AbCellera, a local Vancouver biotech company lead by Dr. Carl Hansen, had an IPO on Friday, December 11th, 2020 and now has a market cap of $15 billion!!! This is a tremendous success for AbCellera, UBC, the Vancouver biotech community and the millions of people that will ultimately benefit from the therapeutics that AbCellera will develop. Abcellera has used its “lab-on-a-chip” platform to develop a treatment for COVID19 and is working on developing treatments for other diseases.

To reflect on this big news, I wrote this Medium article. The article is divided into three parts: 1) AbCellera’s IPO, 2) major milestones in AbCellera’s history and 3) Abcellera’s UBC connection.

1) AbCellera’s IPO:

More details about AbCellera’s recent success is below:
- Vancouver biotech firm AbCellera Biologics goes public at $20 per share on NASDAQ
- Ex-UBC prof Carl Hansen now worth more than $4 billion following spectacular AbCellera Biologics IPO
- Vancouver biotech developing COVID-19 drug like the one used to treat Trump soars in blockbuster IPO
- The official AbCellera IPO announcement is here.
- AbCellera’s SEC IPO registration document => Read this document if you want to get a detailed understanding of what AbCellera is all about. In this document you’ll find AbCellera’s financial statements, compensation packages*, technology overview, strategic plans and much more.

This is a screenshot of Figure 7 from AbCellera’s SEC IPO registration document. This figure describes AbCellera’s approach to searching for antibody response using microfluidics and machine vision. Bamlanivimab, AbCellera’s treatment for COVID19, is a Bamlanivimab is monoclonal antibody (mAb) directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. (ref)

2) Key milestones in AbCellera’s History

Three big breakthroughs for Abcellera were:
- 2018: A $30 million US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant in 2018 for research in “pandemic response”.
- May, 2020: A $175.6 million ($125.6 million USD) Gov of Canada grant for technology and manufacturing infrastructure for antibody therapies against COVID-19 and future pandemic threats.
- Nov 2020: Abcellera’s human anti-body against COVID19, Bamlanivimab received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (ref).

A few comments from me:
- As per this Jan, 2020 article, AbCellera Is Mobilizing a Response to the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak as Part of Its DARPA P3 Program, AbCellera was already using their drug discovery platform to look for COVID19 treatments in January. This led to Bamlanivimab’s success. I guess the old adage, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, is true.
- Amazingly, given Abcellera’s market valuation of $15 billion dollars, Abcellera only generated an income of $11.6 million in the 2019 fiscal year and $25.2 million in the first nine months of 2020 (ref). Abcellera’s current market valuation reflects its potential. One should keep this in mind when considering investing.

I look forward to watching the rest of AbCellera’s impressive journey unfold.

3) AbCellera’s UBC Connection

Dr. Carl Hansen, the co-founder and CEO of AbCellera, was a professor at UBC and taught one of the biophysics classes I took as an undergraduate at UBC in 2010. He was one of my all-time favourite professors. I particularly appreciated that he linked his lessons back to the research he did in his lab and that he often made our homework assignments directly related to the kind of “lab-on-a-chip” research questions he was working on. This gave all of his students an early glimpse of the promise of lab-on-a-chip technology and likely foretold some of the future success at AbCellera. Carl is a brilliant scientist and communicator — he has a special ability to do “back-of-the-envelope” calculations and explain complex concepts in simple language. He also brings out the best in the people he works with.

Carl and I are also both graduates of the UBC Engineering Physics (aka: Fizz) program. On its website, the UBC Engineering Physics program highlights that it is “the ideal program for those who strive to invent new devices, advance science and pursue careers at the leading edge of high-technology, both locally and internationally.” Having spent four years in Engineering Physics, I can vouch for that statement. Furthermore, Carl certainly epitomizes that statement and inspires all of us in the UBC Engineering Physics community to strive to be changemakers as well.

There are also several other Fizz graduates at AbCellera. Daniel Da Costa is a 2012 Fizz graduate who joined AbCellera in 2012 as a scientist and co-founder. He must have witnessed an incredible evolution over the last eight years! More recent Fizz additions to AbCellera include Dawson Horvath, Dylan Neid, Scott Lawson, Richard Romanow, Milenko Despotovic, Andrew Booth and probably many others**. Andrew Booth is the CFO of AbCellera and demonstrates that there is a good case to be made for the value-add of combing training in engineering and business. Of course, there have also been many non-Fizzers that have made great contributions at AbCellera. Regardless of their educational pedigrees, the AbCellera team members have put in a lot of hard work and created innovation worthy of global recognition. I feel inspired to be loosely associated with these global changemakers. I’m already looking forward to seeing the next billion-dollar company that will be dreamt up and created by someone from the Vancouver biotech community and/or from UBC Engineering Physics.

~ Philip Edgcumbe, BASc (UBC Engineering Physics 2011), MD, PhD

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Website | Speaking Sizzle Reel | The Doctor’s Challenge
Radiology Resident, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Co-Founder and Board Member of the Collective Open Source Medical Innovations for COVID19 (COSMIC) Organization — COSMIC Website | COSMIC Project Showcase Video

PS. Sadly for me, as of the writing of this article on Saturday, December 12th, 2020, I do not own any AbCellera stock. On the bright side. I have no conflict of interest as it relates to this article.
*The careful reader of AbCellera’s SEC IPO registration document will note that the compensation packages of Carl Hansen and Andrew Booth both include “one pair of Air Jordan basketball shoes”. 🤣
**Thanks to Dawson Horvath, Fizz student and current robotics intern at AbCellera, for helping me assemble this list.

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UBC Radiology Resident (MD, PhD) | Singularity University Faculty | Futurist | Entrepreneur

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Philip Edgcumbe

UBC Radiology Resident (MD, PhD) | Singularity University Faculty | Futurist | Entrepreneur