Portland, Ore., Oct. 27, 2016 / The Portland Business Journal

2016 Manufacturing Product Innovation of the Year: AbSci

This has been a big year for AbSci LLC, a small but rapidly growing biotech startup.

It’s taken on more funding, more people and more space, thanks to its innovative protein manufacturing platform.

Founded by Sean McClain in 2011, AbSci’s proprietary platform helps cut the cost of therapeutic proteins and antibodies used in treating cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders.

For patients, the platform can help accelerate drug discovery timelines to get promising treatments to market more quickly; For the biopharmaceutical industry, it can increase manufacturing efficiencies and reduce costs. All told, its platform enables production of lab scale protein for screening in a matter of days and, significantly, it scales for manufacturing.

Its system is winning fans — it picked up a win in the “Emerging Bio” category in last year’s Oregon Bio 2015 Pitchfest — and investors.

In April, AbSci snagged $5.1 million in Series A financing, led by Silicon Valley-based Phoenix Venture Partners, which invests in startups developing breakthroughs in material sciences.

AbSci is using the funds to support further development and scale up its SoluPro platform for the commercial production of insulin and other biologic drugs. Global demand for insulin outstrips production capabilities.

AbSci also has a number of partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, though McClain won’t disclose any details.

“These are top-10 pharmaceutical companies,” he said. “Now we’re really focused on the insulin partnerships that we have going on and helping commercialize our technology in insulin manufacturing.”

McClain will likely have more time to focus on those efforts now that the company has found a home that can accommodate its growth. At the end of this year, AbSci will move into a new multi-tenant building in downtown Vancouver, but it’s been quite a journey getting there.

Late last year, AbSci announced it was flying the coop at Portland’s OTRADI Bioscience Incubator.

AbSci had been the first tenant to sign on at the South Waterfront incubator in 2013. Just two years later, it became the first to announce it had outgrown its space, even though it had tripled its footprint to the maximum available, 1,200 square feet.

“They’re bursting at the seams, which is a good problem to have,” OTRADI Executive Director Jennifer Fox said at the time.

When McClain founded AbSci, he was the first and only employee for the first 18 months. He raised an angel round then hired one more employee. By the end of this year, McClain expects AbSci to have 20 employees and up to 40 by the end of next year.

AbSci’s expansion plans hit a snag, however. The company first signed a lease to become the first tenant of a life sciences technology lab planned for the Port of Vancouver USA’s former Red Lion Hotel property.

Although McClain said he would have preferred to remain in Portland, he couldn’t find any suitable lab space nearby. The port property seemed like the perfect fit.

Then in August, the deal fell through. AbSci backed out after determining the space would no longer accommodate its rapid growth, leading the port to cancel its plans as well.

The company eventually signed the lease for the downtown Vancouver space, which should give AbSci the space it needs to innovate and grow.

To view the original version at The Portland Business Journal, here.