Comprehensive coverage

How to take advantage of the antibodies' ability to recognize foreign molecules

Innovations in the field of antibodies were announced at the biotechnology conference held in Haifa last week

T cells. From Wikimedia
T cells. From Wikimedia

You don't need to receive messages from the stars to understand that the biotechnology industries are going to be the great success of the 21st century. Every year, dozens of biotechnological and biomedical start-up companies are opened around the world, and a significant part of them start their journey in Israel. They deal with everything - starting with finding vaccines for cancer, through tissue engineering for the rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries, and ending with sequencing the genetic code of customers and predicting the diseases they will suffer from.

Israel is also trying to get on the wave and direct investors to the developing companies. Last week, the Life Sciences Industries Conference was held in Haifa, as part of the Prime Minister's Conference on Exports and International Cooperation in 2008. The conference was organized by the Haifa Economic Organization and the Haifa Life Sciences Park and attempted to bridge the gap between industry and academia. During the conference, both researchers and CEOs presented the areas in which their companies focus in the life sciences industry and tried to persuade investors to help them financially.

The conference was opened by Yona Yahav, the new-old mayor of Haifa, who announced Haifa's status as the capital of the north and its future as a center for life sciences, biotechnology and industry. One of the first steps Haifa is taking in this direction is to brand itself as a student city. If until now there were two universities in Haifa, from now on areas of the city will also be dedicated to student housing. At the end of his speech, Yahav blessed the brotherhood of evil that exists in Haifa among all its residents - Muslims, Christians and Jews - for over a hundred years. And noted with dry humor that, "In this respect we were very lucky, that none of the celebrities - Jesus, Muhammad and Moses - visited here."

After the opening remarks of the conference, researchers and company managers began to present their research and inventions in short lectures of ten minutes. The first to take the stage was Dr. Mira Peled, who founded and serves as the chairman of the company Applied Immune Technologies Ltd (AIT - Applied Immune Technologies Ltd). The company is based on a technology developed by Doctor Yoram Reiter from the Faculty of Biology at the Technion, which utilizes the extraordinary ability of antibodies to recognize foreign molecules and bind to them. Although this ability has been known for decades, antibodies in the body have an important limitation - they can only recognize signs of disease that appear on the surface of cells, bacteria and viruses. On the other hand, T-type white cells, which are part of the body's active defense system, have the ability to recognize cells that have been infected with viruses, or that have developed cancer within them. The infected cells produce unusual proteins within them, which are captured by an internal molecule called MHC, which migrates to the surface of the cells and displays the foreign proteins there. T cells can bind to MHC and recognize the foreign proteins it presents, but the antibodies themselves cannot bind to them.

Although these two arms of the immune system - T cells and antibodies - serve the body well, there is always the possibility of optimization. Since it is very difficult to manipulate T cells, the AIT company is currently focusing on the production of innovative antibodies capable of mimicking the ability of white blood cells and recognizing the MHC and the proteins it carries. The company produces human antibodies capable of identifying cancer cells and ignoring healthy cells.

The company's first product is a drug for melanoma, mainly because in its most severe condition it currently has no effective medical treatment. The treatment with antibodies will hopefully lead to a rapid elimination of the tumor cells by the antibody-guided immune system. The studies show that it is possible to target the antibodies with high efficiency to the melanoma cells, almost without room for error. The injection of the antibodies into mice in which melanoma tumors were soaked resulted in a significant suppression of tumor development.

Another AIT project that is being conducted at the same time is supposed to lead to the 'weaponization' of the antibodies with drugs. Since the antibodies will only stick to cancer cells, the drug molecules attached to them will be released only in the tumor area and kill the cancer cells. In experiments on mice, the ability of antibodies armed with drugs to suppress tumor development was proven.

What does the future hold for antibody technology? According to Peled, the company intends to continue producing antibodies for additional cancers, such as breast carcinoma and prostate cancer. In addition, the company focuses on fighting viral diseases, which, like cancer, change the function of cells from the inside. As an example of this, researchers have already succeeded in producing antibodies that locate only cells infected with the HTLV1 virus.

"We believe that this technology can bring to the world a new type of treatment, for these diseases that cannot be treated." Peled said, but added that, "in order to bring these antibodies to the clinic, a large amount of funding is needed - either from the government or from investors... We can build a complex here to produce the antibodies - we have the knowledge and great people." We just need help from the government or industrial partners.”

So far part XNUMX ofRoey Tsezana's report on developments presented at the conference, tomorrow we will bring reports on additional developments, this time in the field of biosurgery

Below is a press release from the conference organizers - the Haifa Economic Society:

For the first time: the Export Minister's Conference arrived in Haifa

"Having the conference in Haifa is a testament to the strength of the life sciences industry in the city." The vice president of Merck, Dr. Marvin Turner, said that a delegation from the company recently met with the heads of Israeli companies in the fields of life sciences

Haifa, which is outside the focus of the business community in Israel most of the year, received a special moment of attention this week: the Prime Minister's Conference on Exports and International Cooperation was held on its third day in Haifa. The Prime Minister's Conference, the main business event in Israel, is held every year organized by the Export Institute and the relevant government ministries. This year, following the business development activity of the Haifa Life Sciences Park, it was decided that the life sciences session will be held in the city of Haifa. The achievement belongs to Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, who will try to leverage this, for the purpose of bringing more companies from the field of life sciences to Haifa.

"With the help of the hi-tech industry, we will put ourselves at the center of action," Yahav said at the beginning of the conference, "we will create the climate for this industry to flourish in Haifa and the north. This year we laid the foundations for the life sciences park in Haifa near Mattam. We are turning the lower city into a university campus, with the intention of reaching 70 students in the city, and we are convinced that we will succeed this way."

The chief scientist: Eli Ofer, said at the conference that he is convinced that Haifa has the potential to become the life sciences center of Israel. "The combination between universities, Rambam and help from the government will allow Haifa to succeed in the field," he said, "The Office of the Chief Scientist decided a few years ago on a series of strategic areas for investment and defined the life sciences as a focus area. We know that the life sciences in general are a field in which Israel needs to act in such a way that within a few years this field will bring about the change that hi-tech brought about in the past."

Avi Pepperkorn, CEO of the Economic Society for Haifa, which organized the day of the conference in Haifa, expressed his hope and belief that the Life Sciences Park will be successful, similar to the MTM Park, in the field of computing and information systems. "The new park will provide the best conditions for researchers and workers," he added. The Life Sciences Park is a unique and pioneering project in Israel, which is being built with infrastructure for life sciences companies. As part of the business development activities, we are creating a platform for collaborations between Haifa research institutions and Israeli and international business entities, with the goal that they will cooperate and develop the activity in the offices in the park. The agreement of the organizers of the event to hold the conference in Haifa is a major testimony to the power of the life sciences industry operating in the city of Haifa in the national and international activities.

The main lecture on the day of the conference in Haifa, was by Dr. Marvin Turner, senior vice president of the international pharmaceutical company Merck USA, who specializes in licensing agreements and external research in the global arena. According to him, Merck has recently made a structural change in its research and development system, and is expanding the search for collaborations in the fields of research and development.

Turner discovered that, among other things, Merck operates an international network of "technological scouts": employees of its research system stationed at various sites around the world, in order to build networks of contacts and in-depth acquaintance with the development in the local industry. "A Merck delegation - operating outside the US under the name MSD - recently also visited Israel, and met here with a number of companies in the fields of life sciences, biotechnology and pharmaceutical technologies.

"The policy that guides the company strives to expand the weight of external R&D and collaborations throughout its business. We need to build new products and new business methods. Science is an international language: there are no geographical boundaries for innovation and ideas. We want to transform Merck from a company that looks inward to a company that looks outward." According to the data he presented, 5,000 new potential partners are tested at Merck every year, in various fields of technology and products."

Turner emphasized that replica investments in perceptive research and the development of new drugs are a profitable matter - when you actually succeed in innovating thanks to these investments. Thus, for example, Merck is currently enjoying the results of its investment in the development of the drug Genovia, for diabetes patients, which is the first to suppress the GLP-1 hormone without the need for an injection, and its success in the development of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, which has generated sales of 2006 billion dollars since it was launched in 2.4 . The company invested 11 years in development - and required 22 licensing agreements for the use of external technologies, before it was able to introduce the vaccine to the market.

"Another new drug from Merck, Isenters, approved in October 2007, inhibits the replication of the AIDS virus, with a completely new mechanism that focuses on inhibiting the activity of a key enzyme in the replication process. The first product that Merck began to develop in this field failed, after it led to the death of dogs in the experimental processes as a result of unwanted binding of copper molecules. As a result, the company had to redevelop another molecule, which did prove itself.

During his lecture, Turner warned against "a growing gap between what can be financed as part of research at a university or a small start-up company, and between what can be sold to a large pharmaceutical company." In order to bridge this gap, Merck is collaborating with Cure-Tech in Boston, and is looking for additional pharma companies to invest in the relevant technologies before the competitive stage. Merck's collaborations also include generic companies in India, which carry out initial stages of discovery of new molecules, and deals with Addex, and France's Ariad, which is developing a drug for sarcoma (cancer tumor)".

One response

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.