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Aug. 10, 2022

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Vancouver-based Absci to create drugs for Merck

Company gets $610 million in initial fees, payments

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Absci Corp. is teaming up with pharmaceutical giant Merck, the Vancouver-based Absci announced Friday.

Absci, a biologic drug and target discovery company, will use its huge database of protein and drug candidates, as well as its artificial intelligence-driven drug creation platform to create drugs for three disease targets for Merck.

Absci’s technology allows the company to cut down the time for biologic drugs to reach clinics from a more conventional five years to a matter of months.

“Not only are you decreasing the time, but you’re actually being able to create better drugs for patients,” said Sean McClain, founder and chief executive at Absci.

Merck invested in Absci before the company went public this summer. The initial collaboration was geared toward a single program, which was a success.

“They saw the success and wanted to do a much bigger collaboration and not only on drug discovery but on the biomanufacturing side, really utilizing our full capabilities,” said McClain. The company will not only provide Merck with the drug proteins for the target diseases but also the cell lines needed to manufacture them.

“It’s a really great validation of our technology that its working how we want it to.”

“At Merck, we are continually evaluating new ways to build, expand and refine our biologics capabilities,” said Dr. Fiona Marshall, senior vice president and head of discovery, preclinical and translation medicine, Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement to the press. “Absci’s platform offers a compelling opportunity to design new biologic candidates and explore the expression of complex proteins.”

The collaboration is great for Absci, with Merck making a significant investment in the company — $610 million in initial fees and milestone payments for the disease targets, as well as funding for research and tiered royalties when the produced drugs are sold. The investment speaks to the value that Absci can create for Merck, said McClain.

“It’s a really strong signal to the market that we have a very exciting, cutting-edge technology that has a lot of value,” said McClain.

The CEO added that he believes the collaboration will propel the company to acquire new partnerships faster.

“When you land a big partnership like this with a very well respected, large pharmaceutical company that’s respected for their research, it sends a message to the market that what we’re doing is very exciting.

“That’s just going to drive more business for us.”

Investors took notice of the news; Absci’s stock price opened Friday nearly $3 higher than its closing price Thursday evening. The stock, which trades under the ABSI ticker symbol, ended the day up $1.05 at $7.19 a share, a 17 percent increase on the previous day’s close.

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