Antibody production can slow research to a crawl. As senior vice president of Biointron, Lei Shi works with scientists around the globe to optimize and expedite their antibody projects, from start to finish.

          A head shot of Dr. Lei Shi, senior vice president at Biointron
Lei Shi advocates for an improved antibody production process that leads to rapid results., Katherine Zhang

How does antibody production typically work?

The process involves multiple steps from gene synthesis to the final product. First, researchers have to synthesize their antibody gene and make an expression construct. This involves primer design, cloning into an expression plasmid, extracting the plasmid from bacteria, and transfecting it into mammalian cells. After culturing for multiple days, the cells secrete antibodies into the medium. Scientists then perform several purification steps that capture the antibodies and remove contaminants to get a pure product. This process can take eight weeks. 

Why does antibody production take so long?

There are challenges at every step. Scientists often outsource the gene synthesis, which can take between one to three weeks, and mistakes can occur during this process. Subcloning into a desired plasmid, which researchers outsource or take on themselves, can take from one to two weeks and includes challenges such as sequence verification for multiple clones. Transfection and cell culture last another one to two weeks before researchers can finally collect their products. 

Researchers must choose a cell line with good transfection efficiency. Even experienced protein biochemists can have trouble during purification because different antibodies have properties that require specific conditions, without which products degrade and aggregates form. 

What advice do you have for scientists engaging in antibody research?

The connection between gene synthesis and antibody production needs to be optimized. Biointron performs gene synthesis and antibody production together. Scientists who come to us have one order number that takes their project from primer design to the end product, seamlessly connecting every step. By doing this, we get a plasmid ready for transfection in three days. Then by using optimized cell lines, transfection processes, and culturing conditions, we produce antibodies at yields of hundreds of milligrams per liter within four to six days. This shortens the whole process to one to two weeks, which is a tremendous improvement. 

Learn more about optimized antibody production.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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