The quest to find a vaccine for COVID-19 will depend on companies providing an assist behind the scenes, companies like Waterloo Region’s Rapid Novor.

Rapid Novor doesn’t make vaccines. What it does is help the drug makers and pharmaceutical companies that do. Specifically, Rapid Novor is engaged in antibody protein sequencing using mass spectrometry. In plain-English terms, its technology and methods speed up the early-stage drug development process, enabling a vaccine maker to potentially come up with a COVID-19 vaccine more quickly.

“That’s our hope,” says Rapid Novor CEO and co-founder Mingjie Xie.

Rapid Novor’s efforts in assisting vaccine development got a big boost Tuesday. The company announced it has completed a US$5-million Series A raise led by China-based Co-Win Ventures, money Xie says will help his Kitchener-based company add equipment, add people and lean in on research and development.

“An antibody is a very important type of molecule in our immune system that helps us set up a defense or fight against infections or any foreign agent getting into our bodies,” explains Xie. “We have developed a technology [that can] read out what is the antibody’s sequence.


Rapid Novor CEO and co-founder Mingjie Xie.

(Communitech photo: Anthony Ramsay)

“Once [drug makers] have the sequence, they can reproduce the antibodies.”

Recently, the company received funding support from the Government of Canada to discover therapeutic antibodies from the blood of convalescent COVID-19 patients using its sequencing technology.

“Rapid Novor is an excellent example of the strength, creativity and determination that make up a successful MedTech operation,” said Iain Klugman, CEO at Communitech. “This raise will enable them to continue to grow and succeed in Waterloo Region and beyond.”

Rapid Novor was formed in 2015 as a University of Waterloo spinoff and is a graduate of the Waterloo Accelerator Centre. It is housed at the sprawling Catalyst137 facility on Glasgow St., where it is in the process of more than doubling its footprint to 11,000 square feet in order to accommodate its growth.

The company has 32 employees and aims to double its employee count within a year.

Xie said that Waterloo Region, and its proximity to universities locally and in the GTA, Hamilton, Guelph and London, continues to provide the company with top-drawer talent.

“To be in the Kitchener-Waterloo region is really important because we have access to the [graduates] much easier than anywhere else,” Xie said.