Antivenom is an antibody product that neutralizes a particular venom’s toxins. Vemons contain a complex mixture of hundreds of substances. Typically, an animal, such as a horse or goat, is injected with a small amount of venom. The antibodies released by the animal’s immune system are harvested through blood collection. The blood serum or plasma is then concentrated and purified into pharmaceutical-grade anti-venom. Such antivenin can cause a series of severe side effects due to the heterogeneity and high degree of immunogenicity.
The challenge was to improve the efficiency of antivenom production. As generating therapeutic horse sera is labor intensive and produces inconsistent antivenom with poor thermal stability, the antibody developed needed to be consistent in production methods, thermally stable, and broad enough to target clinically-relevant toxins but specific enough prevent side effects.
To improve the efficiency of antivenom production, we started with developing a recombinant antibody. Recombinant antibodies reduce the inconsistencies of relying on horse sera as, once developed, the antibodies are reproducible within the lab. Single domain antibodies have unique properties in homogeneity, specificity, and less chances of anaphylaxis. These antibody fragments are only 12-15 kDa, making them highly stable, easier for bulk production, favorable for tissue penetration, and have specific antigen binding abilities. Thus antivenin made of single domain antibodies was a good candidate. To develop these antibodies, we optimized immunization protocols and used phage display technology to create a library of recombinant antibodies that bind to a broad spectrum of anti-venom toxins.
"We worked with ProSci to develop an antibody phage display library from which candidates could be selected. We were impressed with the scientific expertise ProSci brought to our project as well as the attention to detail given at every juncture. Looking forward to future collaboration with them!"
-Dan Dempsey, CEO, Venomyx Therapeutics