Monoclonal antibodies have emerged as a powerful weapon in the fight against a variety of diseases, including several types of cancer - but producing them remains a costly process. Crystallisation is the way forward, say EU-funded researchers working on an innovation that could make it easier, greener and far more affordable.
© Design Cells #203971424, source: fotolia.com, 2018
The EU-funded AMECRYS project is championing crystallisation as the technique of choice for the extraction and purification of monoclonal antibodies, which have to be isolated from the medium in which they are grown. The approach it is proposing would revolutionise the process. It is one of the future and emerging technologies Horizon 2020 is backing through a dedicated grant scheme fostering transformative frontier research and innovation.
Antibodies are a natural component of our immune system, which produces them in response to the presence of pathogens such as bacteria. They are not a one-size-fits-all proposition: each is tailored to a specific kind of pathogen, which it recognises through a feature that is characteristic of this particular troublemaker.
The monoclonal antibodies used to treat diseases and for various other purposes are generated in laboratories and produced by copies of a single cell. Extracting them from the growth medium and purifying them to the high levels required currently involves several steps and expensive materials.
AMECRYS, which was launched in October 2016, is striving to replace these operations with a single, continuous process. The approach proposed by the partners involved in this four-year undertaking involves crystallisation supported by sophisticated membranes.
The researchers expect this advance to slash the cost of the so-called downstream processing (DSP) of the antibodies by more than 60 %. They also project a 30-fold reduction of the DSPs environmental footprint. The solid-crystalline state of the product would bring added benefits, they note: compared to liquid formulations or amorphous freeze-dried solids, the product is anticipated as being more stable and more active, with sustained release capability. .