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Nov. 23, 2020

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Downtown Vancouver biotech firm AbSci raises $65M amid work to develop virus vaccine

Company plans to build 60,000-square-foot facility in Vancouver

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
4 Photos
Research associate Hayley Carter works in the lab at AbSci in downtown Vancouver doing DNA sequencing sample preparation. Vancouver-based AbSci raised $65 million in investor funding for protein-printing technology, a technology that AbSci is using for COVID-19 vaccine research and development.
Research associate Hayley Carter works in the lab at AbSci in downtown Vancouver doing DNA sequencing sample preparation. Vancouver-based AbSci raised $65 million in investor funding for protein-printing technology, a technology that AbSci is using for COVID-19 vaccine research and development. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

AbSci, a biomanufacturing company in downtown Vancouver, is entering a “golden age” along with other life-science companies, said AbSci founder and CEO Sean McClain.

The company announced last week it raised $65 million in investments since January, and part of its growth is from helping drug companies develop vaccines for COVID-19.

The company is preparing to start construction on a 60,000-square-foot building in Vancouver to house all operations and employees, according to McClain. In addition, McClain plans to enlarge the employee count from 70 to about 220 in a year.

“It’s booming right now because of COVID,” said McClain. “A lot of investors in the general public are getting educated in life sciences and the importance of biotech.”

McClain said he would not reveal the new headquarters’ location until next month, but he said he has hired Portland-based Bora Architects and Bremik Construction for the project. Conceptual renderings for the new building are being finalized, and McClain said he would unveil them next week.

Even before the pandemic, AbSci was in a growth spurt: In February, the company had just raised $15.4 million in Series D investor fundraising and taken over an entire floor of The Hudson Building at 101 E. Sixth St.

AbSci will spend most of the $65 million Series E fundraising on protein printing technology, which for nine years has been its main service for clients, including drug companies, said AbSci senior director Kole Krieger. AbSci can recreate proteins made by the human body by using E. coli cells in a fermentation tank; the company specializes in the speed and efficiency of the process.

AbSci is working on multiple projects related to COVID-19, and it is helping develop proteins for use in potential vaccines, Krieger said. He said he could not release additional details about the projects Tuesday.

Krieger said the COVID-19 projects influenced the amount of investment that AbSci drew in its latest round of funding, but the company is also working on other projects that have drawn investors, including cancer treatment. The new projects have also made AbSci’s revenue quadruple this year, McClain said.

Casdin Capital was the lead investor, with participation from Redmile Group, ArrowMark Partners and Phoenix Venture Partners. Casdin Capital and Redmile Group will each appoint a representative to AbSci’s board of directors.

AbSci was founded in Portland but moved to Vancouver in 2016 after Gov. Jay Inslee gave the company $200,000 from his Strategic Reserve Fund.

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