Vol 5. Issue 33 / October 31, 2005
Scripps Research to Receive Payment for Antibody Technology
Thanks to technology that came out of the laboratory of President Richard A. Lerner, The Scripps Research Institute will receive a multi-million payment as part of an Abbott Laboratory agreement announced Wednesday.
Scripps Research and other patent holders, the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom and California biotechnology company Stratagene, will receive a combined $191 million in place of future royalties on the drug Humira®. Humira® was developed in a collaboration between Abbott and Cambridge Antibody Technology and launched in 2003 as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.
In addition to its indication for rheumatoid arthritis, the drug has received approval for treatment ofpsoriatic arthritis andis currently in clinical trials for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Humira® is the first fully human monoclonal antibody to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and was developed using combinatorial antibody libraries. While during the early years, scientists from Scripps Research and the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology were scientific competitors in developing this technology, they ended up pooling their inventions in Cambridge Antibody Technology to facilitate exploitation of the technology for the creation of new medicines.
"It is wonderful to see the work from our laboratory and that of Sir Gregory Winter at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology come together to benefit so many patients suffering from a variety of serious conditions," says Lerner.
Antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, are proteins produced by immune cells that are designed to recognize a wide range of "foreign invaders" in the body. Antibodies target antigens—proteins, carbohydrate molecules, and other pieces of pathogens such as viruses or bacteria—then alert the immune system to help clear the body.
Antibodies produced in the human immune system also have the potential to fight off cancer and other human diseases. Scientists reasoned that if human antibodies specific for proteins involved in human diseases could be identified, these antibodies could be produced in the laboratory and given to patients therapeutically. One of the barriers to this idea was that the old technologies for producing antibodies relied on recovering them from animals and then "humanizing" them.
In 1989, Lerner and his colleagues, however, pioneered a technique for employing what are known as "combinatorial antibody libraries" to find human antibodies that could be used therapeutically. Combinatorial antibody libraries allow human antibodies to be identified directly by searching among billions of antibody variants taken from human blood samples to find those that bind to a particular target involved in a particular disease—such as tumor necrosis factor, involved in rheumatoid arthritis.
In their 1989 paper, Lerner and his colleagues developed methods to generate large combinatorial antibody libraries. In a prophetic last statement in the 1989 paper, they say, "The data also invites speculation concerning the production of antibodies without the use of live animals."
For more information on Lerner and his research, see his faculty web page, which also provides other links.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu
"It is wonderful to see the work from our laboratory and that of Sir Gregory Winter at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology come together to benefit so many patients suffering from a variety of serious conditions."
—Richard A. Lerner