AbCellera, adMare deliver capital and R&D boost for B.C. cancer therapy startup Abdera

New startup launches with $8m in seed funding

Lana Janes, interim CEO, Abdera | submitted

A B.C. startup taking on tough-to-treat cancers with nuclear medicine is getting the backing of two other notable names in the province’s life sciences sector.

Precision oncology company Abdera Therapeutics Inc. officially launched this month with $8 million in seed financing for its efforts to use targeted radiation treatments against cancers.

Founding partner AbCellera (Nasdaq:ABCL), which had a blockbuster initial public offering last month, will receive equity and research payments as it helps the startup use its antibody discovery platform to develop antibody-based targeted alpha therapies.

The Vancouver-based biotech company is also eligible for downstream clinical and commercial milestone payments as part of the deal.

Abdera’s other founding partner, non-profit adMare BioInnovations Inc., is best known for its efforts to commercialize academic research. It will be providing capital as well as access to its R&D facilities to the startup.

Abdera is the third company adMare has launched over the past fiscal year.

“Not only is the company well positioned in Vancouver because of the confluence of expertise with Triumf, and AbCellera and the deep R&D community here — but also Canada,” Abdera interim CEO Lana Janes told BIV, referring to the national particle accelerator centre based at the University Endowment Lands next to Vancouver.

“Canada has had a long history of excellence in the nuclear medicine space and in radioisotope production. And now you see that Canada is also emerging as a global leader in the formation of new radiopharmaceutical companies. And we're really just excited to be part of that ecosystem.”

Janes, who is a venture partner at adMare, added Abdera will look at collaborating with Triumf as it looks to harness nuclear medicine.

The two organizations are located down the street from each other on the University Endowment Lands.

The technology behind Abdera — targeted alpha therapies — hones in on cancer cells over healthy tissue to deliver powerful, radiation-emitting metals known as radioisotopes.

“You're internally delivering radiation to these tumor cells [via intravenous injections] and effectively these particles can help blast and destroy the cancer cells in a very selective way,” Janes said.

She likened the process to how each type of cancer has a unique postal code that Abdera’s custom-designed therapeutic molecules can seek out to deliver precisely targeted treatments against relapsed or recurring cancers.

Janes said partnering with AbCellera will be key to effectively developing these treatments.

“With the power and speed of their platform to help us develop these molecules that can seek out postal codes that are specific to the tumor cells, we think that they're second to none and world class in being able to do that —not only quickly, but also very, very selectively,” she said.

The management team at Abdera also includes chief science officer Mike Abrams, the former chief innovation officer for the commercialization arm of the Centre for Drug Research & Development (now adMare); and senior vice-president of biology Adam Judge.

Wendy Hurlburt, CEO of the LifeSciences B.C. industry association, said the work adMare has been doing has been critical to the province’s industry.

“One of the things that B.C. does extremely well is we collaborate between academia, research and industry,” she told BIV. 

“We need to be able to successfully take the innovation that has commercial potential … take it out of the lab and take it into the commercial space, and that's one of the things that adMare does.”