This story originally ran on April 1.
By Tony Fong
Sigma-Aldrich and Atlas Antibodies this week said they have added 2,200 new antibodies to the Prestige Antibodies line, bringing the total number of antibodies sold under that brand to 8,300.
The addition moves the companies one step closer to their goal of bringing to market at least one antibody against every human protein by 2015.
The 8,300 Prestige Antibodies cover 6,900 human protein targets and are mono-specific polyclonals. The antibodies are developed by the Human Proteome Resource, which runs the Human Protein Atlas. Atlas Antibodies, its commercial arm, initially launched the Prestige Antibodies line in 2006, and partnered with Sigma-Aldrich in 2008, giving the company exclusive distribution rights in certain parts of the world (PM 02/14/08).
The partnership between Sigma-Aldrich and Atlas Antibodies, based in Stockholm, Sweden, came in the midst of efforts in the research community to address quality issues in antibodies, which the scientific community has said for years have hindered antibody-based research, including proteomics research.
In the two years since the two companies forged their partnership, antibody quality remains a problem, Becki Davis, Sigma-Aldrich's product manager for antibodies, told ProteoMonitor.
"I believe the research community is still trying to get a grasp on identifying a universal, standardized protocol for what is truly a validated antibody," she said.
The value of Prestige Antibodies is that they go through extensive characterization and are standardized in universal protocols, "resulting in efficient, more effective research," she said.
"Prestige antibodies are all analyzed using several tissue samples," Davis said. "For example, for the immunohistochemistry application, each antibody is tested on 48 normal tissues, 20 different human cancer types, and 59 cell lines and cells. No other commercial antibody has that wealth of data and character analysis done."
Each antibody is characterized by Western blots, immunohistochemistry, and immunofluorescence, she added.
As a result, Prestige Antibodies provides "researchers really a sense of the performance of the antibody, rather than just testing on one sample type or a couple of cell lines and hoping to get the desired results," Davis said.
In particular, she said, the immunohistochemical characterization that all Prestige Antibodies undergo sets them apart from other commercially available antibodies, including the 22,000 antibodies sold by Sigma-Aldrich that are not part of the Prestige Antibodies product line.
"That is our target market — researchers detecting protein in immunohistochemical applications," Davis said, though some of the non-Prestige Antibodies sold by the company are also suitable for immunohistochemistry.
Aside from questionable quality, another issue surrounding most commercially available antibodies is that while there is no shortage of antibodies that can be bought on the market, they target many of the same proteins, translating to a significant gap in the availability of antibodies to target many proteins.
According to Marianne Hansson, co-founder and CEO of Atlas Antibodies, the Prestige line contains antibodies that are not commercially available elsewhere, though she could not say how many.
The company had previously stated that the plan was to commercialize 22,000 Prestige Antibodies by 2015. Hansson said this week that has not changed.
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"That's still the goal — to have at least one antibody to each human protein," she said, adding that about 2,500 antibodies are scheduled for release each year. The timing of which antibodies are released is based on which ones the researchers at the Human Protein Atlas, led by Mathias Uhlén, have completed developing.
"Their goal is to do the proteome map of all of the human proteins," Hansson said. "They are more or less just going through all of the proteins, [so] it's not targeted to the need in the market. It's more targeted to just going through all of them."
The launch of the new Prestige Antibodies is the fourth by Sigma-Aldrich and Prestige Antibodies. The initial launch of the product line in 2006 consisted of about 1,800 antibodies. After the two firms partnered, another 2,000 antibodies were released in August 2008. Last June, 2,300 new antibodies were made available.
All Prestige Antibodies are available here. The standard list price for a 100 microliter vial is $399 in the US. Pricing in Europe varies by country, Davis said.
Sigma-Aldrich and Atlas Antibodies share co-exclusive distribution rights in Europe, while Sigma-Aldrich has exclusive rights in North America, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America.
Davis declined to disclose sales figures for the products.
The Prestige Antibodies line seeks to capitalize on work being done by the Human Protein Atlas — which is part of the Human Antibody Initiative of the Human Proteome Organization — to develop better antibodies for use to explore the human proteome. As HUPO tries to gather momentum for its Human Proteome Project to map out the entire human proteome, the Human Protein Atlas has taken a lead role in that effort.
Last week, it had its sixth release with more than 11,200 antibodies from 8,489 human protein-coding genes.
The Human Protein Atlas program was initiated in 2003, and in recent years, two other major initiatives have begun, also to bring about better antibodies. In 2006, a European-US consortium called ProteomeBinders was created to catalog and produce all binding molecules, including antibodies, for the detection and identification of human proteins (PM 03/22/07).
In January, it released the fourth version of its Antibodypedia database, containing 7,109 binders validated by users in 21,269 experiments, according to its website.
Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute's Clinical Proteomics Technologies for Cancer initiative, as part of its efforts to improve proteomics technologies, established the Proteomic Reagents and Resources Core as a source of reagents, including antibodies, to the scientific community. In its annual report for 2009, NCI-CPTC said it has generated more than 75 monoclonal antibodies against cancer-associated proteins.
But even with the work being done by the various entities, the need for better antibodies remains. In a statement, David Smoller, president of Sigma-Aldrich's research biotech business unit, said that extending the Prestige Antibody product line "enables proteomics and cell biology researchers worldwide to understand biology and the study of disease."