In order to offer this expanded manufacturing service, Keating said scale became an important consideration for the organization. The company had the requisite experience in this area, but it had to be built out. That was 10 years ago and the dividends are paying off for ABL, particularly as the promise of gene therapy is now a reality.
ABL continues to support highly complex scientific research developing new therapies for HIV and other infectious diseases. As an example, just last year, the company forged an agreement with the U.S. subsidiary of Germany-based Evotec Biologics to support development of a broadly neutralizing antibody against HIV. That project is being financed by government funding from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
ABL also offers immunotherapy testing services to commercial and government entities in support of clinical trials. Keating said the company is conducting immunoassays, cell based assays and biomarker analyses to determine safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of these therapeutics.
“For a relatively small organization, we’re actually quite complex,” Keating said.
While ABL’s business operations may be complex, its company culture follows a more holistic view of building a community within its ranks. Keating said it’s important to foster real relationships among employees that give rise to that sense of community, responsibility and accountability toward each other.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, ABL has maintained a stringent safety protocol that has resulted in a hybrid work environment with many employees working remotely for some or all of the time. While the company will begin to examine a return to work etiquette given the increase in vaccinations and declining cases of COVID-19 in the area, Keating said management will endeavor to continue to make accommodations for employees, such as working parents when the next school year begins.
Even though most employees were working under this hybrid arrangement, the company was quick to jump into the fight against COVID-19. The company has worked with a number of European-based organizations on vaccine programs where they have larger-scale facilities. ABL is also supporting Fill and Finish work for undisclosed companies involved in what was formerly known as Operation Warp Speed here in the United States.
ABL is currently using its immunotherapy testing and analytical capabilities to assess therapeutics aimed at COVID-19 on behalf of their clients.
“We’ve been playing a pivotal role in this important fight,” Keating said. He added the additional workload due to the pandemic has allowed the company to scale over the past year and plan for further expansion in the next 12 months.
Keating pointed to the proximity of neighboring biopharma companies that are combating COVID and other diseases and hailed them as essential partners for collaborations and partnership. He said the plethora of strong companies in the area is a sign of the strength of Maryland as a leading biopharma hub in the United States.
“The richness and the variability of the biotech community here makes Maryland a special place,” Keating said. “Maryland is made more special because of the confluence of differing organizations— commercial companies, the universities and the government institutions that are just up the road.”