Sigma-Aldrich this week announced a partnership with the commercial arm of the Human Protein Atlas to market later this month 1,800 highly characterized antibodies with the eventual goal of commercializing 22,000 antibodies by 2015.
While many other companies offer antibodies — and Sigma-Aldrich had already been offering a portfolio of more than 4,000 antibodies even before the announcement — the new antibodies will be among the most highly characterized binding molecules on the market, David Smoller, president of the research biotech business unit at Sigma-Aldrich, told ProteoMonitor.
Called Prestige Antibodies, the new antibodies were developed by the Human Proteome Resource, which runs the Human Protein Atlas. The alliance is between Sigma and Atlas Antibodies, a Swedish biotech firm the Human Proteome Resource established in 2006.
Each antibody is being characterized with ELISAs and Western blots, typical for most commercial antibody characterization. In addition, they will undergo further characterization by immunohistochemistry, Smoller said.
“These antibodies … have what I think everybody is really looking for: [the ability] to really tie science to the reagent,” Smoller said. “These things have 500 images, you may want to call it biological knowledge, or information, or science associated with every antibody. And that’s a huge difference today in a reagent.
“We’re the only player that really has this level of characterization,” he added.
In addition to the rigorous characterization, Prestige Antibodies are optimized on a single protocol, “so they basically can work on a lot of different tissue types,” Smoller said. “A lot of people have to buy six different antibodies to make them work in every application for every different issue. [With] this one they’ve optimized the technology … to allow them to be used on lots of different samples without needing to optimize for every different tissue.”
Under the agreement, Sigma-Aldrich has exclusive distribution rights outside of Europe, including the US. It shares distribution rights in Europe with Atlas Antibodies. Smoller declined to provide the financial terms of the deal.
In a statement, Marianne Hansson, co-founder and CEO of Atlas Antibodies, cited Sigma-Aldrich’s brand recognition and distribution channels as key factors in the agreement.
“This partnership will enable Atlas Antibodies to reach all of the proteomics and cell biology researchers who will benefit from the unprecedented specification of the Prestige Antibodies,” she said.
Smoller did not have specific information about pricing for the antibodies but said, “Our goal is to be priced within the standard market. There’s no huge premium that we’re putting on price.”
“We’re distinguishing ourselves by the fact that we’re the only player that really has this level of characterization.”
While there is no shortage of commercially available antibodies, the quality of those currently on the market has been questionable, according to some researchers, and the new partnership represents another step to create more and better antibodies.
In 2006, for instance, a European and US consortium, ProteomeBinders, was created with the intent of cataloging and producing all binding molecules for the detection of human proteins [See PM 12/13/07 and 03/22/07].
And last fall, the National Cancer Institute said it will create an antibody-characterization laboratory to test antibodies used by researchers [See PM 11/29/07].
One of the driving forces behind the NCI’s effort was complaints from researchers about the poor characterization and quality of antibodies on the market, Henry Rodgriguez, director of NCI’s Clinical Proteomic Technologies for Cancer Program, told ProteoMonitor when the NCI’s lab plan was announced.
Matthias Uhlén, a professor at the Royal Institute of Technology who spearheaded the Human Protein Atlas, did not respond to several requests for an interview. But in the fall, he told ProteoMonitor that of the 5,000 proteins that have been provided to the HPA, only about one-third actually work.
“They don’t work in our hands, and therefore they would probably not work in other researchers’ hands,” he said at the time. “So two-thirds of the antibodies that are being sold today don’t work in our hands, and, obviously, this is a problem.”
While the initial launch will cover 1,800 antibodies, several thousand more will be released each year with the goal of creating at least one antibody to all 22,000 non-redundant human proteins by 2015, Sigma-Aldrich said.
The antibodies will be mono-specific polyclonals.
Also, Sigma-Aldrich is not looking to duplicate antibodies it already has in its existing catalog. Another complaint among researchers is that even though many companies may offer many antibodies, many bind to the same target.
“Clearly, we’re trying to make as much non-redundant content as possible,” Smoller said.