A method of mass-producing disease-fighting antibodies has been developed by a research group at The University of Texas at Austin. The results of their efforts were published online in Nature Biotechnology.
The group, led by Dr. George Georgiou, developed the new antibody-production approach to improve upon processes used previously to identify new drugs. Drug companies have used those more time- and labor-intensive processes to develop antibodies for treating rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and other diseases.
"Our approach can provide a significant time savings," said Georgiou, "and it enables antibodies to be isolated to treat human diseases that may not be possible to obtain otherwise."
Bacteria are easy to grow in an inexpensive broth. As a result, harmless forms of the bacterium E. coli have already been used as factories to produce antibodies (protective proteins of the human body that fight viruses, cancer cells and other harmful agents). However, previous approaches required an antibody that looked promising to be moved from bacteria to mammalian cells to pursue large-scale, commercial production.
Getting mammalian cells to produce lots of antibodies costs more, and can take several months. The direct bacterial approach developed by this research team shaves weeks off the production process. Based on the method's early success, Georgiou has begun a collaboration to identify antibodies to treat arthritis and asthma.
The published research was funded by the Foundation for Research in Houston.