Monoclonal Antibodies celebrate their 40th birthday, how were they discovered and changed the world?

24/08/2015 - 3 minutes

It’s been 40 years now since the first monoclonal antibodies have been manufactured by researchers from UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC). Let’s go back to the beginning and see how they became global blockbusters.

One cannot imagine today’s medical portfolio without monoclonal antibodies. Checkpoint therapies against cancer, immunosuppressives treating multiple sclerosis, vaccines against everything … all based on monoclonal antibodies. And many of them are blockbusters just like the second best-selling drug on the market: The arthritis-treating Humira, which yielded $11bn in 2014.

These target-specific tools are not only valuable in fighting diseases, but also in diagnosing them, or testing pregnancy, determining blood types, verifying proteins in the lab, tracking down viruses in animals and so on and so on …

It was back in the 1970s when monoclonal antibodies were firstly isolated by scientists of UK’s Medical Research Council: César Milstein and Georges Köhler. Their technique was based on a breakthrough discovery from Henry Kunkel in 1951.

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