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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver-based Absci partners with Caltech on HIV vaccine research

Work pratially funded by grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 11, 2023, 1:40pm

Vancouver’s resident AI-powered drug generation company Absci announced Thursday that it’s formed a partnership with the California Institute of Technology to discover affordable HIV therapeutic vaccinations.

The joint effort was aided by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to a statement from Absci, the goal of the project is “making a significant step forward in the fight against the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.”

The collaboration will be led by Dr. Pamela Bjorkman. The company said it will bring together both Caltech’s and Absci’s strengths in research and expertise in biology, immunology, protein design and generative artificial intelligence.

According to a spokesperson for the company, the grant will run for 18 months. It’s too soon to say whether Absci will bring on additional team members for the project, the spokesperson added.

Absci uses artificial intelligence to discover biologic drugs, which can bring drugs to the market faster than through traditional drug discovery processes.

The company’s statement said the collaboration’s focus will be to find affordable, scalable and accessible HIV therapeutic vaccines.

“Antiretroviral therapies help many people live longer, healthier lives, but they do not completely eliminate the virus and must be taken for life,” read Absci’s statement. “The cost and inaccessibility of these drugs disproportionately affect millions of people from low-income and marginalized communities.”

The team will aim to develop a therapy that would potentially both treat and protect against infection from all strains of HIV-1.

“This collaboration with Absci allows us to combine our expertise and work toward a common goal of developing affordable HIV therapeutic vaccinations that can save lives and bring hope to millions,” said Dr. Stephen Mayo, professor at Caltech and a co-leader of the project.

Earlier this year, Absci reported its revenues were up, but that it still was facing a loss. It hasn’t announced its second quarter financial results for 2023.

Absci trades on the Nasdaq as ABSI. Its stock has remained steady amid the news. It closed Friday at $1.68 per share, down from where it closed Thursday at $1.71 per share.