Antibodies are the main ingredient in a wide range of biopharmaceuticals, but making them is no picnic. Now, chemists have good evidence there may be an easier way: plastic. Currently, in order to manufacture antibodies, mice (or other live animals) are injected with a foreign antigen over several weeks, stimulating B cells in the bloodstream to produce antibodies. Those B cells must then be harvested from the mouse's spleen and transferred to a bioreactor where they are often fused with another cell type, like immortal tumor cells, that allows them to replicate and survive outside the animal. The cultured cells then produce the antibody. If the antibody is for human use, at some point it must be humanized -- modified through recombinant DNA technology to resemble natural human antibodies. The process is long, difficult, and expensive. But what if a substance introduced years ago as a cheap, durable replacement for...

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