Case Study: From Sample to Lead In Just 3 Weeks

Real Time Response To COVID-19

The Challenge
An effective response to a pathogenic threat requires comprehensive deep screening and characterization of a human antibody response at the maximum speed possible, so that pathogen-specific therapeutics can be quickly identified, developed and deployed. Ideally, samples from index patients (patients who are the first to have been confirmed infected with the pandemic virus) who recovered would be made available to deploy our pandemic response platform.

Our Approach

We have been working with DARPA since March 2018 as part of the P3 program to optimize our technology stack to find effective and field-ready therapeutics against pathogenic threats in record time.

We developed rapid antibody screening, expression, purification and characterization pipelines to deeply mine human antibody responses. As part of the P3 program, and prior to COVID-19, we pressure tested our technology stack twice in simulated pandemic responses:

  • MERS-CoV: In late 2018, we demonstrated rapid isolation of hundreds of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS-CoV, heavy chain only antibodies, or HcAbs, from infected camelids (a natural host for MERS-CoV) in less than 96 hours from sample receipt. Many of these HcAbs were more potent neutralizers than benchmark antibodies.
  • Pandemic Influenza (H1N1): In early 2019, together with our partners, we discovered influenza-neutralizing antibodies from a single sample from a human donor, and demonstrated that we could deploy our platform from sample receipt to successful testing in animals in 55 working days. Our seven lead antibodies were all 100% protective against a 20-times lethal dose of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain of influenza virus in rodents.

The Result

We rapidly deployed our pandemic response platform to find a therapeutic antibody against COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 starting from a blood sample obtained from a U.S. patient. We screened approximately 5.8 million single cells to identify over 500 unique anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Each of these antibodies was evaluated computationally and experimentally to identify approximately 500 different properties per antibody which yielded 220,000 data points, which allowed us to filter down to a smaller group of lead candidates.

Within 23 days of receiving the sample, we and our partners identified 24 lead antibodies for further development and clinical testing. One antibody drug candidate was selected by our partner Lilly, and the first patients were dosed in the first-ever COVID-19 monoclonal antibody clinical trial in North America. This was only 90 days from when we received the sample. The antibody, LY-CoV555, has undergone or is undergoing a Phase 1 clinical trial, three Phase 2 clinical trials and two Phase 3 clinical trials.

From sample to lead in just 3 weeks: real-time response to COVID-19

On October 7, 2020 Lilly submitted a request for LY-CoV555 to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) as a monotherapy treatment in higher-risk patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Interim Phase 2 data of the monotherapy shows a reduced rate of hospitalization for patients treated with LY-CoV555.

For more information on how AbCellera’s technology can deliver large panels of antibody candidates for your therapeutic programs, please contact our team.


Together we can make game-changing discoveries.