A revolutionary new way to make monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) was born during a walk on the beach in La Jolla, Calif. During that stroll in 1984, Steve Benkovic, a professor of organic chemistry from Penn State University, and Richard Lerner, director of the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, vented their frustrations - frustrations that arose from screening hybridoma-derived MAbs for catalytic (enzyme) activity.

Monoclonal antibodies are of vital importance in diagnostics because they provide a targeted way of recognizing a molecule. Benkovic and Lerner's problem was that because enzymes catalyze very specific types of reactions, the amino acid sequence of a particular catalytic antibody also had to be very specific. Hybridomas just weren't providing enough different antibodies to choose from.

Says Benkovic, "It had become obvious to both of us, in giving talks, that we couldn't answer two questions. First, how many antibodies in a response show...

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