Feds investing $175m in B.C. firm developing COVID-19 treatment

Ottawa also promising $240m in additional health-care services

A Vancouver-based life sciences company is getting a boost from Ottawa in the fight against COVID-19 to the tune of $175 million.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Sunday (May 3) that AbCellera Biologics Inc. would be receiving the investment as it pursues the quick development, manufacturing and distribution of therapeutic antibodies.

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Last month American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. partnered with AbCellera to develop a new drug for the treatment and prevention of the COVID-19 virus.

Eli Lilly will use AbCellera’s platform to zero in on antibodies generated in a natural immune response to the coronavirus.

The goal is to develop a new drug to treat people with the virus once they have it.

Clinical trials are expected to begin as early as July.

The federal government is also promising an additional $240 million in funding aimed at bringing more health-care services online.

Virtual platforms for primary care as well as mental health support are meant to relieve pressure on physical facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, as they deal with the pandemic.

Trudeau also revealed the federal government will be launching a COVID-19 Supply Council, which will be focused on sourcing reliable access to items such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.

“We have managed to work with the provinces on sourcing necessary products from around the world so that we’ve been able to meet demand across the country. But at the same time we recognized that it was important to develop our own domestic capacity for PPE,” the prime minister said during his daily media briefing outside his home in Ottawa.

“As the economy starts to open in different places and different ways, it is going to be important to have even more personal protective equipment for people working in the private sector in various industries. And that’s why we need to do everything we can ensure that we’re getting the right procurement.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the council features members such as the Red Cross and Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

While Canadians turn more of their attention towards re-opening the economy, sports leagues such as the NHL face lingering uncertainty over how they might be able to resume the season.

Trudeau said he expects any players arriving from another country to play games to abide by all quarantine rules, adding discussion between his government and the NHL have not reached the point where they are discussing how to bring non-Canadian players into the country.

Many of the questions directed at Trudeau Sunday took aim at his government’s plans to ban “military-style” assault weapons in the wake of last month’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia, the worst in Canada’s history.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney criticized those plans after they were announced last week, saying they would do little to stop criminals.

“We know there is more to do but we also know there is no place in Canada for guns specifically designed to kill the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time,” Trudeau said.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

© Virden Empire-Advance

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