Creating “future proof” antibodies vs. virus variants like Omicron with Ian Chan, co-founder of Abpro
Today's guest is Ian Chan the co-founder and executive chairman of Abpro. Abpro is improving the lives of mankind facing severe and life-threatening diseases with next-generation antibody therapies. Ian explains how their technology is "future proofing" antibodies.
Recently, Abpro announced its ABP 310 COVID antibody retains neutralization activity against the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant, which is exciting.
You’ll hear the full story coming up but first some quick takeaways you’ll get from today’s conversation:
- How Abpro is cutting the time to generate antibodies for testing from 1 year to 2 months.
- What all founders should focus on to facilitate fundraising - what Ian calls “first-class science”
- Unique challenges a company faces when it’s in high-growth mode and how to prepare.
More about Ian he co-founded Abpro with his brother, Dr. Eugene Chan, who is the CEO. Not everyone goes into business with family but they’ve done it successfully a few times actually. Ian received an AB from Brown University and MBA from Harvard University.
Abpro Reports Its ABP 310 COVID Antibody Retains Neutralization Activity Against the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant
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Music by keldez
Transcript is automatically generated. Please kindly excuse any grammatical and spelling errors.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining from lab to lunch today. If you haven't already please subscribe, rate the podcast and share it with your network. We'd absolutely love that I'm Kelly from Qualio and I will be the host of our lab to launch podcast going forward. My inner science nerd definitely excited to chat with the modern pioneers and innovators in life sciences like today, Ian Chan, the co-founder and executive chairman of Abpro joins us gene therapy and genetics was my favorite subject in college. So talking to him about how Abpro is improving the lives of mankind facing severe and life-threatening diseases with next generation antibody therapies was fascinating. A little more about Ian for you. He co-founded Abpro with his brother, Dr. Eugene Chan, who is the CEO. Not everyone goes into business with family, but they've done it successfully a few times actually, and received an AB from brown university and an MBA from Harvard universe. You'll hear the full story coming up, but first, some quick takeaways you'll get from today's conversation. How pro is cutting the time to generate antibodies for testing from one year to two months? What all founders should focus on to facilitate fundraising? What Ian calls first-class science and unique challenges a company faces when it's in high growth mode and how to prepare. All right. Let's get to it. Thanks for joining. Good morning, Ian. I'm so excited to meet you.Ian Chen:
Tell me a little bit about Abpro and what you guys are up to theirIan Chen:
Sure. So Abpro is a generation antibody therapeutics company. We started about 10 years ago in Kendall square. So the goal has been to develop next generation antibody therapies for patients facing severe disease. And early on, we started in Kendall. We started developing our own proprietary antibody platform. And the reason we did that was because we noticed that there was a lot of genetic information but the in order to really translate the genetic information into antibody therapies you had actually have the first making anybody. And there was a huge bottleneck where we noticed at that time on average, was taking the industry over a year to generate simple antibodies, to be able to test. So that's where we focused early on. So we built a platform and the platform, the goal is to build, deliver to anybody's at industry leading speeds in as little as 20. Against traditionally difficult targets. So that's what we did in the first five years. We built the platform, validated it with some of the largest companies in the industry. Most large pharma companies, biotechs academic labs where the initial adopters. And we ran over 300 campaigns during that time against some of the most difficult antibodies that were out there. And that led to a great deal of. A number of them ended up in the clinic. Some, we were part of some programs that ultimately got approved by other companies as well. And based on that backend success, we developed our own pipeline of therapies about starting about five years ago. So those are focused on immuno-oncology eyecare and most recently infectious disease.Kelly Stanton:
Yeah, I was going to say, yeah. And so of course the topic Azure, right? So the pivot to COVID How has that experience, how has that been going?Ian Chen:
It's been intense. So I got, gotta say, I mean, I think it's been intense for everybody around the world but being one of the companies that's directly and it we've, I would say, had to really apply a lot of, a lot of our creativity technology, pretty much everything, or problem-solving abilities to come up with the therapy that we think will benefit. Many many patients out there. So fortunately we had a lot of experience early on working with neutralizing anybodies. So we really felt that was going to be one of the key ways to really fight COVID as a therapy. So, so that's been the focus where we're different is we've focused on what we call it, future proof to anybody's. So anybody's, that can withstand the test of time that can also work against varying and set the comp. So that's always been. And with our platform, we've found regions where to bind on COVID the, they don't look like they change over time. So these are very, I would say, difficult to reach areas and very precise areas that have. Withstand the test of time in variants that are yet to come. So almost one was clearly a big test. COVID right. So,Kelly Stanton:
right. Absolutely. Yeah. And I count on what which one we're up to these days, but yeah, that's, that's, that's amazing that so far everything is just kind of kept falling in line there from that perspective. Yeah. I'mIan Chen:
a con I think it was the most heavily mutated variance out there most, I would say. 95% of existing anybody therapies, including ones developed by major pharma companies fail against immigrants. So December was definitely a huge month of suspense for us to really validate whether a strategy was working. And then the last week of December, when we got great data, showing those were highly effective against, on the bus. So that was a huge validation for the team. ThatKelly Stanton:
that's, that's incredible. That's got to be that that's got to feel amazing. Awesome. Awesome. So you talk about, you know, the, the antibody, it's the diverse immune antibody discovery platform. Correct. Can you, can you, I know we don't want to, you know, share all the company secrets, but can you talk a little bit about that platform and how those things translate from one Antibody to the next, for example.Ian Chen:
Yeah. So diverse immune platform, is it basically the name stems from the ability to create large panels of different kinds of antibodies against the target? So, so you want a large diversity of antibodies and each one will have different properties to be able to do what you want to do as a therapy. So that's how the approach of the platform was built. And you can see early on. Up fund, we have the ability to create large panels, a very, very diverse antibodies against a particular target. So hence the ability to create precision antibodies that can go after a very difficult to reach areas on the target. And then the ability to really move these quickly downstream, and then even engineering properties that we need onto the ultimate anybody's in the form of better. Better dosing characteristics for the antibodies or higher efficacy. So that's all built into the platform from beginning.Kelly Stanton:
That's great. I guess for a little bit of a pivot you are you and your brother, co-founded this this company. What's, what's the story there. I know a lot of people maybe wouldn't go into business with, with, with family. So, tell us about how ad pro cameIan Chen:
to be. Yeah, so I'd say, so it's been, it's been great with the Eugene, so he's 11 months younger, so we were always very close growing up. So that, that really. You know, helped I think in this particular situation. So it's, it is quite quite a unique situation, I think, and it's really complimentary, but he brings a totally different set of skills. So there's not a lot of overlap between what we do. He's trained as a scientist physician at Harvard. I have a business background, so there's really a complimentary fit there. So in some ways you have a great synergy there, you know, you have one plus one.Kelly Stanton:
Nice, nice. Yeah. You don't see that a whole lot, but it's important. I think, you know, I working in industry and, and in that sort of startup space, you know, a lot of innovators don't, you know, they, they have the science down, but they don't have that business background and finding a compliment that, that fits so well. That's really an advantage for you guys. I think in, in, especially if, in what I've seen in industry, that's a that's great. So you said that pro has been around you, you had about five years prior to COVID, but you guys were both with other organizations prior. You were both with the same work prior. How did, what was the family's there to say? We're going to go do our own tech. Sure.Ian Chen:
Yeah, no, we, we got into a biotech fairly early on in our careers. So we were both two or three years out of undergrad and we launched the one of the first high-speed sequencing companies in the industry. So that's how, that's how we started working together. In fact so that was a company we started from scratch scaled it up at about 120 people. Some great people associated with it including some of the. Sequencing like Craig Venter. So that's how we really gained insights into the next step. So there was a huge movement to really map the genome early on. And then there was this treasure trove of targets for novel therapies that got uncovered. But in order to translate the, you really need molecules that can really target these sequences. So that that's that's how, how appro was making. Launched really based on that knowledge.Kelly Stanton:
Yeah, definitely. Well, and it's, and it's interesting too, because I think you know, sort of in that mapping space, there's, there's a little bit, it's definitely hardcore, R and D. Now you're dabbling in. Sort of early GMP and, and regulated space. How has that transition been for you?Ian Chen:
Yeah, that's a that's yeah, it's, it's, it's, it's different. It's, it's a different, but very exciting phase to be able to get to that point where you know, you're moving your molecule directly into clinical trials and ultimately treat patients. So I think, so I think the regulatory, the quality side it's been exciting to see. Work through those areas. Those are necessarily processes in, in this highly strategic areas that any company really needs to be good at to be able to get there.Kelly Stanton:
Definitely. Definitely. Yeah. Quality. Since we provide digital quality management systems, we always love to ask founders what your take is on today's quality and regulatory landscape. So what, how again with your pivot there?Ian Chen:
Yeah, no, I think it's a very important area. It's great to see companies like qual, you come up with innovative solutions for sure. In this, in regulatory and also Polly, I mean, I think historically it's. I mean, if you go back even 10 years, a lot of companies by had rooms filled with papers. So I mean, oh my gosh. Thinking about how cumbersome that process is, right? So anything that can really speed that up make, make it more efficient is a huge benefit.Kelly Stanton:
Thanks. Yeah, absolutely. I would completely agree. Where do you see a pro going with your pipeline in such over the next five to 10 years? Yeah, ourIan Chen:
goal has always been to really bring modern medicine to the next level. So you look at oncology, a lot of the ways that we even still used to treat oncology patients are from many, many, many years ago. You look at surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. Mankind's own immune system is amazing. We're not only the antibodies that we're generating with our own system. They're natural, they're safe. So if we can harness that we can really move medicine to the next level instead of just treating symptoms, get the root cause and fight disease that way in a much safer way too. So that's always been a focus of the company over the next five to 10 years. I think we have an opportunity to get at least two of these. There are these approved. So starting with COVID certainly a big problem right now. Certainly huge need for patients. So again monoclonal therapies are future-proofed out there and approved and available right away. That's, that's certainly part of the near-term goal and then also opportunities in our immuno-oncology and eye care. These are novel molecules. Or utilizing combinations of targets that can be highly effective for patients in those areas.Kelly Stanton:
Definitely. What have been some unexpected challenges with growing and scaling at pro?Ian Chen:
Yeah. So that's a great question. I think the biggest challenge that was surprising. So when your company is scaling up quickly, so just when things are, everything's going well, when, when you have a lot of momentum yeah. Scale, just as quickly for the company. And that can put a lot of resource demands on an organization. So that's what I would say. A lot of people are just prepared for the downside, but when you're, when you're things are going really well scaling up and can be a lot of work.Kelly Stanton:
Absolutely. Yeah. And, and, you know, of course the question on everybody's mind about funding, you know, what would you, what would your advice be around other entrepreneurs and trying to get some funding and then obviously as you've grown and scaled the way that you have, I imagine funding gets a little easier, but yeah,Ian Chen:
no, I think for other founders just focus on the science. Focused on first-class science, everything kind of flows from there, from biotech. So when that's going well and focusing on the fundamentals, everything kind of flows in there.Kelly Stanton:
I love that word or that term. First-class science. That's that sums it up perfectly, I think. Nice, nice. Awesome. Well, yeah, so we talked about funding vice for other entrepreneurs and such is there any other. You know, anything else you'd like to share with about the company or about your journey that you think people would like to hear?Ian Chen:
Yeah, I think it's an exciting time for biotech in general. I mean, I think organizations have really the ability to impact mankind in a very positive way right now. So, so I think to all the other biotechs. Individuals and industry let's keep, keep doing this. Let's keep being passionate, bring the great science. Let's bring these great therapies. I can really fight disease to mankind to bring it to the next level.Kelly Stanton:
I love that passion. That's why we do what we do here at Qualio too. yeah, it's been a real pleasure chatting with you. I love this is why I do what I do. I love talking other people who are passionate about helping change the world and, and the gene therapies and that sort of thing. Cause yeah, you touched on both these and stuff is a two time breast cancer survivor. And you know, now while she's still with us, chemo wrecks ya so there's a, you know, if we can get to a place where those you know, those gene therapies are, are less overall, the nuclear option, that's personally so exciting for me. So thank you for all that you guys are doing, and we really appreciate you. if people want to follow your company's story or get in touch with you, what's the best way, how can they get in touch with you?Ian Chen:
If that's the way it would be to go onto our website, which is abpro.com a B as in boy pro, or when word.com. And then there'll be great way to keep up to date on developments at AbproKelly Stanton:
perfect. Thank you.Ian Chen: