Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MABS in history of medicine

The Lock and Key of Medicine Monoclonal Antibodies and the Transformation of Healthcare

While reading FT this summer I came across an article quoting a unique book on history of monoclonal antibodies (MABS). Right now there are more than 30 drugs in the market based on hybridoma technology that was created in 1975.
The birth of MABS is explained with full details, how the creators finally didn't patented it and why, the difficulties for research in an unconnected world, etc... An exciting story that is worth reading. Right now, it would be completely different, commercialization of research and medicine has raised considerably.

That a British company spearheaded the first marketing of Mabs, a technology devised in a British laboratory by an émigré Argentinian scientist with his German colleague, highlights the international nature of biotechnology commercialization. Sera- Lab’s venture to sell Mabs took place in the midst of the excitement generated by the founding of Genentech in 1976. The emergence of Genentech, which had been set up
to market recombinant DNA products, galvanized numerous alliances among academics, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to launch new companies to commercialize biotechnology. Most of the early enterprises set up in the wake of Genentech’s birth were dedicated to exploiting recombinant DNA for the mass production of natural products such as interferon and insulin for drugs. But the early germination of the modern biotechnology industry did not rest solely on recombinant DNA. By the 1970s a number of pioneering companies were developing Mab products, including Sera- Lab and two startups: Hybritech in San Diego and Centocor in Philadelphia. Entrepreneurs who risked entry into the field had no guarantee of success and were entering totally uncharted
territory. Such individuals faced major fi nancial, personal, professional, and regulatory challenges as well as a great deal of hostility, pessimism, and litigation.

Milstein with Köhler at the time of their receiving the Nobel Prize in 1984 together with Nils Jerne.

Mabs have had their strongest therapeutic impact in the field of cancer. The first Mab to reach the market for cancer was edrecolomab (Panorex), which was granted German regulatory approval in 1995 for the treatment of postoperative colorectal cancer. Developed by Centocor in partnership with the Wistar Institute, it was withdrawn in 2001 because of its poor effi cacy in comparison with other drugs. Since 1997, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved twelve Mab drugs for cancer treatment, including rituximab (Rituxan), approved in 1998 for the treatment of non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By 2012 there were over 160 candidates in clinical trials for cancer, with seventy of them in phase III trials, the stage before a drug is submitted for regulatory approval.

Mabs have enabled the identification and characterization of cancerous tumors previously difficult to detect and diff erentiate from other tumors, thereby providing a better understanding of cancer. They have also opened a path to more personalized medical treatment. Trastuzumab (Herceptin), for example, was specifically developed to target HER2/neu, a protein overexpressed by tumors found in 25 percent of newly diagnosed breast- cancer patients

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