Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future
In a new episode of the pharmaphorum podcast, host Nicole Raleigh welcomes Carl Hansen, CEO of AbCellera, for a conversation on the discovery and acceleration of antibody therapeutics.
From a maths, physics, and engineering background, Hansen segued to life sciences at CalTech and moved into the world of microfluidics and substance analyses. Indeed, AbCellera grew out of the idea that single-cell microfluidics and next-generation technologies can radically change how drugs are discovered.
In the past 30 years or so, there have been developments in insights into biology (academic research and the like) and changing the tools and technologies that test those ideas (biotech), and with perhaps 100 plus antibody therapies now approved (the first having been so only in 1986). This, Hansen says, is being driven by a few factors: the specificity of antibodies as opposed to small molecules, a long path life, and an evolution that has permitted engagement with immune systems.
In short, antibodies are not a one-trick pony, as seen in what Hansen terms the Cambrium-explosion, with protein engineering and plug-and-play work with antibodies into different modalities; furthermore, antibodies don’t face the challenges of, say, cell therapies when it comes to the business of manufacturing.
If you want to build a successful company, make a difference in the industry, real value to patients needs to be delivered, states Hansen. The secrets, the unique insights into biology, are a way in, but so too is going after known biology that has faced technological barriers. And it is the latter way that AbCellera has followed, with partnerships and co-development a key part of that process.
Quoting Danish physicist Neil Bohr, on how it is very difficult to make predictions, especially if about the future, Hansen nonetheless notes that recent bear markets in biotech have had a chilling effect on innovation, and a culling, but that the tide will turn: there’s every reason to believe, to not give up hope, but capital must be preserved in the meantime. It hasn’t been merely biotech Darwinism per se, but writ large; yet, tomorrow is another day.
You can listen to episode 114a of the pharmaphorum podcast in the player below, download the episode to your computer, or find it - and subscribe to the rest of the series - in iTunes, Spotify, acast, Stitcher, and Podbean.