Start-up aims at customizing monoclonal antibodies

With their superior binding skills, monoclonal antibodies have become one of the hottest areas of biomedical research, with around 200 programs in development. All of them hope to mimic the success of the first antibodies in use against cancer, but there is one critical hurdle that they have to overcome. A process called antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity prevents antibodies from binding to all patients with the same specificity. And a start-up developer called PIKAMAB believes it has a new approach that can overcome that hurdle.

"A one-size-fits-all antibody drug in this case doesn't work," CEO Vijay Ramakrishnan tells MIT Technology Review. Factoring in the genetic background of the patient can make all the difference. And PIKAMAB is developing a theragnostic test that can identify just how likely it is that patients will respond to an antibody therapy. Then he wants to engineer antibodies so that they can bind to cells, making each therapy a match for one of nine different groups identified by the test.

Cancer immunologist Louis Weiner at Georgetown University tells Technology Review that he sees value in the theragnostic test, but doubts that a custom design is the best way to go in overcoming the problem. New monoclonal antibody therapies that bind better to all immune cells would be a better approach.

- read the article from MIT Technology Review