Minister Bains announces investment in antibody discovery technology to help treat COVID-19

News release

Government of Canada supports innovative project to combat COVID-19 and build Canadian capabilities to fight future pandemics

May 3, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario 

Canadian scientists, businesses and manufacturers are stepping up to fight COVID-19. The Government of Canada is investing in projects that will support Canada in the global race to find a treatment for COVID-19 while building domestic capabilities to fight future pandemics.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, today announced a contribution of $175.6 million to AbCellera Biologics, a Canadian biotechnology company that researches and discovers next-generation antibody drugs to fight infection and disease. This contribution is part of Canada’s Plan to Mobilize Science to fight COVID-19, announced on March 23, 2020, which includes significant investments in Canada’s world-class research community to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 and to diagnose the disease. These investments in research, combined with investments in innovation and manufacturing capacity, will help stop the spread of COVID-19 and, ultimately, facilitate our return to work and economic recovery.

This project will support Canada’s fight against COVID-19 by leveraging AbCellera’s world-leading drug discovery technology, which searches and analyzes blood samples of recovered patients to rapidly find naturally produced antibodies that can be used to fight and prevent viral infections. In just a few short weeks, AbCellera has identified over 500 antibodies directly from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19. This funding is instrumental in accelerating and expanding AbCellera’s capabilities to combat COVID-19. AbCellera and its partners expect clinical trials to begin in July 2020 or earlier. Antibodies found during AbCellera’s research may also be used to create tests for COVID-19, and the company is working with several global organizations to support the development of new diagnostics to monitor the disease.

This funding will also support AbCellera in establishing a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility in Vancouver, B.C. This new AbCellera facility will be the first of this scale in Canada capable of going from a patient sample to manufacturing antibodies for clinical testing. It is part of a broader plan to ensure Canada further strengthens its capacity to respond to future pandemics.

Through this investment, the Government of Canada is contributing to breakthrough technology efforts to advance the development of treatments for COVID-19 and commercialization of a made-in-Canada solution.


“Our government is mobilizing its resources to confront COVID-19, supporting the researchers and businesses that are working hard to develop medical countermeasures to beat this pandemic. Today’s contribution will support AbCellera Biologics as they use their world-leading technology to rapidly identify antibodies that could be used to develop a treatment for COVID-19 while ensuring Canada’s long-term preparedness for future health challenges.”

– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“Each and every one of us is affected, and our teams stand together, galvanized to fight this outbreak. We are proud to have the support of the Government of Canada to quickly find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

– Carl Hansen, PhD, CEO of AbCellera

Quick facts

  • AbCellera has partnered with global biopharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to rapidly manufacture and distribute a treatment.

  • On April 23, 2020, the Government of Canada announced more than $1 billion in support of the Plan to Mobilize Science to fight COVID-19 that includes vaccine development, the production of treatments, and tracking of the virus. This includes $600 million through the Strategic Innovation Fund to support COVID-19 vaccine and therapy clinical trials led by the private sector as well as Canadian biomanufacturing opportunities. The establishment of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force was also announced. The Task Force will oversee the coordination of a series of country-wide blood test surveys that will tell us how widely the virus has spread in Canada and provide reliable estimates of potential immunity and vulnerabilities in Canadian populations.

  • On March 23, 2020, the Government of Canada presented the Plan to Mobilize Science, a $275 million plan that makes significant investments in Canadian researchers working on countermeasures to combat COVID-19, including potential vaccines and treatments, support for clinical trials, and upgrades to facilities to develop, test and scale up promising vaccine candidates. The Strategic Innovation Fund contribution to AbCellera is part of this plan.

  • This contribution is also part of a larger strategy the Government of Canada is implementing to protect Canadians against COVID-19. This strategy prioritizes the health and safety of Canadians, ensures the capacity of our health care system, and mitigates the economic impacts on Canadians and Canadian business. 

  • The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program is collaborating with Innovative Solutions Canada to launch challenges seeking near-to-market solutions from Canadian small and medium-sized businesses that need financial support to refine and sell their products or solution to meet a COVID-19–related need.

  • The National Research Council of Canada has established a COVID-19 Pandemic Response Challenge Program, composed of teams of government, academic and private sector partners, to address specific COVID-19 gaps and challenges identified by Canadian health experts. The Challenge Program is structured around four main research pillars: rapid detection and diagnosis, therapeutics and vaccine development, digital health, and enabling adaptive responses.

Associated links


Véronique Simard
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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