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Antibody programme

At UCB we are continually striving to improve our technologies to help us generate the best therapeutic antibodies for patients and the best antibody tools for researchers. Due to significant investment and expansion of our capabilities we are able to offer access to our highly efficient antibody discovery technology.

UCB has designed, commissioned and installed a series of linked, automated work-cells into a new antibody discovery laboratory at our Research Centre of Excellence in the UK. By automating many of the steps of the process UCB has been able to take advantage of efficiency savings and increased throughput, with the following benefits:

  • Increased capacity allowing us to prosecute more projects in parallel and impact a broader spectrum of disease mediators
  • Reduced project cycle time, helping us rapidly deliver treatments to patients
  • Improved process consistency and accuracy ensures quality in our screening campaigns
  • Increased quality though deeper immune sampling.

    Work with UCB and access a world-leading antibody discovery platform.

Our antibody technology

UCB's Core Antibody Discovery Process

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UCB’s core antibody discovery platform combines high-throughput B cell culture screening and the identification and isolation of single, antigen-specific IgG-secreting B cells through a proprietary technique known as the fluorescent foci method.

Using state of the art automation to facilitate screening, extremely efficient interrogation of the natural antibody repertoire is made possible.

  • Our platform enables efficient sampling of the immune repertoire. This allows the generation of diverse panels of high-quality antibodies and the discovery of rare antibodies with desirable characteristics not only against human targets, but also for the generation of research tools for proof-of-concept models
  • Over 1 billion B-cells can be screened to discover rare antibodies across a range of targets
  • Retains the cognate heavy and light antibody chain pairings, selected naturally for affinity and stability in vivo
  • No inefficient hybridoma fusion process – direct V-gene cloning from selected B-cells
  • No restriction on species – in addition to rodents, rabbits are routinely used and provide a very robust immune response even against highly homologous targets.  Sampling from human repertoires is also possible.

Our expertise

UCB has expertise in other technologies required for antibody drug discovery and development and is well-equipped to generate both first-in-class and best-in-class antibody therapeutics.

Antibody engineering & structural biology

We are able to humanise antibodies from different species to reduce immunogenic potential, and can also murinise rabbit antibodies to make them suitable for use in mouse models.

Additionally, UCB offers an integrated, structure-based approach to antibody engineering, with X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy applied in real time to the analysis of antibody-antigen complexes. Rational design of variable region sequences can be applied to affinity maturation and stability engineering, as required.

UCB also offer a variety of antibody formats to suit the required mode of action – from full-length IgG with active or inactive isotype, to monovalent or multivalent antibody fragments and multi-specifics.

Antibody expression & purification

Expression and purification of proteins is another of UCB’s core competencies.  We have built propriety transient (CHO and HEK) and stable (CHO DHFR-) mammalian platforms incorporating engineered host cell lines and proprietary media and feeding strategies to improve protein expression and secretion.

Our ability to express large panels of early stage candidates at small/medium scale (10-100mg), and selected antibodies at large scale (0.5-10g) allows a wide variety of different uses.  In addition, we have developed our own microbial expression platform for antibody fragment expression.

With a deep understanding of the challenges of generating the desired quality of recombinant proteins we also have a full spectrum of protein purification methods to achieve the ideal level of protein purity for all requirements.

Antibody Biophysical characterisation

To ensure the quality and stability of therapeutic candidates, UCB has the advantage of being able to use its antibody discovery technology to produce a panel of purified humanised antibodies which can be triaged for desirable biophysical properties.   This is achieved by a screening and selection process.

Candidate antibodies are subjected to a variety of assays which mimic stress conditions that the molecules would encounter during manufacture, storage and delivery, such as temperature change, pH variation and agitation. In this way, we ensure that only candidates with the most robust biophysical characteristics are taken forward for further development.

Crystal structure of a Fab binding its antigen

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Small-scale bioreactors

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Different variants of an IgG molecule

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Apply to programme

Who should apply

This is an open call seeking non-binding Expressions of Interest for projects to develop novel antibodies against potential therapeutic targets.

If researchers are working on a target that is accessible to modulation by antibodies, UCB is interested to explore a possible collaboration to develop novel antibodies and create breakthrough medicines of the future.

Non-confidential Expressions of Interest are encouraged in a range of therapeutic areas, and in particular inflammation and autoimmunity, CNS disorders, fibrosis and metabolic disease, as well as targets that may benefit multiple therapeutic areas.

Submission deadline
The Technology Platform Access Programme (TPAP) is open continuously to submissions.  Upon receipt of a submission, the applicant(s) will be informed of the timelines for the review of the submission.

How to apply

Applicants must complete an Expression of Interest form and submit the completed form to UCB. The email address technology.accessantibody@ucb.com should be used to request/ submit Expression of Interest forms and ask any questions about the programme.

Expression of Interest will be non-binding but must contain the signature of a duly authorised officer or agent of the institute or company submitting the Expression of Interest form.

Those  applicants who are selected by UCB will be invited to submit a full proposal for further evaluation by UCB.  The full proposal will require applicant to provide more detail about the proposed project.

Evaluation criteria

The criteria upon which UCB will evaluate each Expression of Interest will include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • A defined target must be identified
  • A clear translational hypothesis must be presented as to how the therapeutic effect can benefit patients
  • How this therapy will differentiate from existing treatments
  • How research studies using the reagents will advance our understanding of disease pathophysiology research that is guided by patients’ needs.

UCB retains sole discretion and control over the selection of those applicants who will be invited to submit full proposals and for determining whether or not to proceed with a TPAP collaboration based such full proposal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any geographic restrictions to who may apply?
There are no restrictions on where groups can apply from. We welcome Expressions of Interest from all over the world.

Is the program open for biotechs?
The antibody programme is open to anyone working on a target that is accessible to modulation by antibodies. Non confidential Expressions of Interest are encouraged in a wide range of therapeutic areas including inflammation and autoimmunity, CNS disorders, fibrosis and metabolic diseases.

Can I get more information on the programme?
Those interested in the antibody programme can get more information or arrange an informal conversation by emailing us at technology.accessantibody@ucb.com.

How long does the application process take and what does it involve?

The process involves an initial proposal stage (completion of an Expression of Interest form) and we will aim to contact applicants within 2 months of receipt. UCB will select those applicants who will be invited to submit a Full Proposal. On receipt of the completed Full Proposal, UCB will make a decision whether or not to proceed with discussions to negotiate a collaboration agreement and initiate detailed project planning with the successful applicant(s). The project will commence after reaching agreement on the detailed project plan and entering into a formal collaboration agreement.

How will the collaborations be structured commercially?
For example, will any money change hands, who funds the work, who owns any resulting IP etc?
For those applications which are selected by UCB to enter the programme, a formal project plan and collaboration agreement must be completed. The terms of each collaboration agreement will be subject to mutual agreement on an individual project basis and will address all relevant matters, including IP ownership and any relevant financial provisions. UCB will retain sole discretion in the selection of proposals it wishes to pursue.

How many collaborations do you anticipate entering into?
There is no pre-defined number of projects that the programme will support. This programme is a long term project for UCB that sees us engage with other research organisations. At this stage we have called for non-confidential Expressions of Interest from all interested parties.  The subject matter and scope of the proposals which are selected by UCB will affect the number of collaborations we enter into during any period of time.

How will the project be managed?
For those applications which are selected to join the programme, a formal project plan and collaboration agreement will be completed. The terms of each collaboration agreement will be subject to mutual agreement on an individual project basis.  This will include matters such as collaboration management. UCB will retain sole discretion in the selection of proposals it wishes to pursue.

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Contact

Those interested in the antibody programme can get more information or arrange an informal conversation by emailing us at technology.accessantibody@ucb.com.