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Growing human antibodies in algae

A group of scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have used algae to express an antibody that targets herpes virus, describing the work in an upcoming issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This antibody could potentially be an ingredient in an anti-herpes topical cream or other anti-herpes treatments, but more importantly the algae expression technology that the TSRI team used could facilitate production of any number of human antibodies and other proteins on a massive scale.

"This is a fast, new, effective way to make human therapeutic proteins," says TSRI Associate Professor Stephen P. Mayfield, Ph.D., who conducted the research with Research Associate Scott E. Franklin, Ph.D., and TSRI President Richard A. Lerner, M.D.

Significantly, the researchers were able to produce the antibody at a much lower cost than has been achieved in the past. In fact, they say they can now make antibodies, soluble receptors, and other proteins so much more cheaply that an entire new class of therapeutics may become accessible.

"You can't make [a drug] if the time and expense is such that you have to sell that drug for hundreds of thousands of dollars," says Mayfield. "This has to be the way we make drugs in the future."

From Pond Scum to Pharmacy Shelf

Also called immunoglobulins, antibodies are proteins produced by immune cells that are designed to recognize a wide range of foreign pathogens. After a bacterium, virus, or other pathogen enters the bloodstream, antibodies target antigens--proteins, carbohydrate molecules, and other pieces of the pathogen--specific to that foreign invader. These antibodies then alert the immune system to the presence of the invaders and attract lethal "effector" immune cells to the site of infection.

Antibodies can also be useful as therapeutics for a number of human diseases ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to leukemia. Likewise, there are
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Contact: Jason Bardi
jasonb@scripps.edu
858-784-9254
Scripps Research Institute
15-Jan-2003


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