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Canadian Collaboration Gives Funding Boost to Duchenne MD Research

August 27, 2018

AbCellera Biologics Inc. has announced a collaboration with Fabio Rossi, MD, PhD, and Michael Underhill, PhD, of the University of British Columbia, to develop therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy-associated fibrosis.

“It is immensely satisfying to see many years of investment in the basic science now being translated towards therapies for patients in need, and that this work will lead to economic benefits here in [British Columbia],” Rossi said in a press release. Rossi is a professor in the university’s Department of Medical Genetics and co-director of the Biomedical Research Centre.

Muscle fibrosis, which involves scarring of muscle tissue, plays a very important role in the disease development and progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Fibrosis of the liver or other organs is of concern in a number of diseases. So, any anti-fibrosis therapies could find wider applications beyond muscle fibrosis in DMD.

“Effective treatments that prevent fibrosis would be life-changing for people living with DMD by slowing disease progression and improving quality of life,” said Catalina Lopez-Correa, MD, PhD. She is chief scientific officer and vice president at Genome BC. “We invest in projects that will make a difference in the lives of British Columbians and this type of therapy has the potential to make a significant impact.”

The $3.5 million provided by AbCellera Biologics Inc. will help in this collaboration, which involves discovering and engineering a range of antibodies. Antibodies then will be selected by the university team for testing in animal models. The ultimate aim is to reach a therapeutic product that can be submitted as part of an investigational new drug application.

“As a spin-off built on research done at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, we are thrilled that AbCellera’s success is propagating a virtuous circle of innovation,” said Carl Hansen, PhD, CEO of AbCellera. “We are now positioned to engage with UBC’s outstanding researchers and enable the translation of basic science into new therapies for patients.”

The project is part of the the Genomics Application Partnership Program (GAPP), which is a $6.5 million project that supports collaborations between universities and the industry. Genome BC and Genome Canada will be contributing $3 million of this money.