Jim Wells (UCSF)

An­ti­bod­ies once act­ed on­ly as pro­tein block­ers. Now, sci­en­tists are find­ing new ways to make them pro­tein de­stroy­ers

The first lab-made an­ti­body med­i­cine was ap­proved in 1986 — it bound to an anti­gen known as CD3 on T cells and was meant to pre­vent kid­ney trans­plant re­jec­tion. While an­ti­body tech­nol­o­gy im­proved, most an­ti­bod­ies were made as block­ing agents, neu­ter­ing clamps that at­tacked cells and pro­teins.

But then sci­en­tists got cre­ative with their en­gi­neer­ing. They made an­ti­body-drug con­ju­gates, or AD­Cs for short, which at­tached tox­ins or drugs to the an­ti­bod­ies, en­abling them to kill cells. Then they made CAR-T ther­a­pies, which at­tached a pa­tient’s T cell to the tar­get­ing frag­ment of an an­ti­body, to de­stroy can­cer cells.

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