Five minutes with Sven Lee, Chief Business Officer, Abzena – DCAT Week ‘18
PH: Can you first introduce Abzena to us?
Lee: We are an end-to-end CDMO in the biopharma space, doing everything from early discovery and cell line development all the way to GMP manufacturing of proteins and antibodies. Our early discovery, research and cell line development is done at Cambridge, UK, and our manufacturing for proteins at San Diego. At Bristol, just north of Philadelphia, we do a lot bioconjugation, cytotoxins and synthetic chemistry. Right now, we are building out a new GMP bioconjugation suite there, which should be up and running in a month, and we also have the ability to do GMP-grade cytotoxin small molecules. Bioassays and bioanalytics are another key capability and that supports many small to mid-sized biotech customers.
PH: At the start of the year, you announced plans to move into new sites at both Cambridge and San Diego. What prompted that?
Lee: For Cambridge, it was the need for more and larger space for cell line development and other development areas. We are still on the Babraham Campus but have more capacity and have combined immunology, discovery, chemistry, bioassay and bioanalytics there. At San Diego, we were moving away from the large GE Wave manufacturing platform, because it is not very scalable. Now we are using Sartorius’s single-use stirred tank bioreactors. We have a 500 litre reactor at our existing facility and have just signed a lease on another one nearby, with a lot more space. With this we will be able to have two trains, one of them going up to 2,000 litres, and we plan to move everything to the new site by about Q2 2019 as it gets built out.
PH: Was that the only rationale?
Lee: We were also limited for space in what we could at San Diego, as well as needing to move into stirred tank bioreactors. It has also opened up opportunities, because the market for flexible GMP capacity is quite tight right now. We can now start projects at the 500 litre facility and transition them over as they develop.
PH: Business levels must be good, then.
Lee: It’s increasing. What’s critical right now is that we do everything properly when we move to the new facility
PH: Is DCAT Week the big event in the field for you?
Lee: This is actually the first time we’ve attended. We were mainly on the biotech side, but because we now have the chemistry GMP facility in Bristol, this is a perfect opportunity to show the capabilities and capacities we have there, including antibody-drug conjugation. Now we can develop the cell lines, in Cambridge UK, and do both the synthetic chemistry and the conjugation in Bristol and we have already announced a couple of agreements we have made for bioconjugation. We have our own proprietary linking technology called ThioBridge but clients may also have their own linkers and cytotoxins, so we can put a toolbox together then mix and match to see what works best for them.