About Monoclonal Antibodies

Selectively targeting tumor cell surface antigens

Expanding on a heritage of groundbreaking monoclonal antibody development, we continue to investigate the potential of transforming the ability of antibodies into therapeutic agents against cancer, with a goal of creating new standards of care in areas of unmet need.

In the 1970s, through Nobel Prize-winning research by scientists at the Roche-funded Basel Institute for Immunology, the technology behind the generation of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies was discovered. This technology revolutionized biological research, ushering in a new age in oncology.1

Monoclonal antibodies are designed to selectively target and bind to antigens on tumor cells to induce tumor cell death. They are generated from identical cells that are cloned from a single parent cell and are therefore able to recognize and bind to a single target antigen that is preferentially expressed on tumor cells.2-4

Fab=fragment of antigen binding; Fc=fragment, crystallizable.

Fc-mediated effector functions

Some monoclonal antibodies are designed to kill cancer cells through Fc-mediated effector functions, such as:

  • Antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC)
  • Antibody-dependent cellular phagocytosis (ADCP)
  • Complement-dependent cytotoxicity (CDC)

These functions play an important role in the mechanistic properties of many therapeutic monoclonal antibodies.5-7

Monoclonal antibody enhancement through glycoengineering

Upon binding to tumor antigens, antibodies emit a signal, marking these cells for immune attack. This attack signal is in part controlled by the presence of sugar molecules attached to the Fc region of the antibody. In the development of monoclonal antibodies, scientists are able to manipulate these sugar molecules through glycoengineering, which may enhance the affinity of the antibody for immune effector cells.2,8

Generating libraries of tumor-specific monoclonal antibodies through phage display technology

In addition to living organisms, we use phage display technology to generate antigen-specific antibodies. Through this in vitro technology, DNA-encoded libraries of antibodies are generated, displaying a wide range of human antibody molecules on the surface of cultured cells. Subsequent selection and screening based on an antigen of choice toward this pool of cells lead to the isolation of high-affinity binders.9

We continue to research diverse approaches that harness the action of monoclonal antibodies

Bispecific antibodies

Bispecific antibodies may be constructed by joining two identical light and heavy chains of two different monoclonal antibodies, creating two distinct antigen-binding sites (Fab regions) with a common Fc region. This structure allows simultaneous binding to T cells and selected tumor cell surface antigens, which redirects the cytotoxic activity of T cells to tumor cells, initiating an immune response. The Fc region in bispecific antibodies is engineered to be fully silent, which may prevent the activation of innate immune effector cells.10-13

Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs)

Through ADC technology, highly potent cytotoxins are attached to monoclonal antibodies, enabling targeted delivery of the cytotoxins to malignant B cells or other tumor targets.14

We are investigating monoclonal antibodies, such as PD-L1 inhibitors, as single agents and in combination with other targeted strategies, such as VEGF inhibition.


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