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Monoclonal antibodies

manufactured antibodies that revolutionised the biotechnology industry East Anglia,

Computer graphic showing blue and green antibodies sticking to bumps on the surface of a white sphere representing a cell.
A representation of monoclonal antibodies binding to antigens on a cell surface. Wellcome Library. London.

Monoclonal antibodies, proteins with the ability to bind to a specific molecular target, have found many uses in research, treatment and diagnosis. 

In 1975, César Milstein (1927-2002) and Georges Köhler (1946-95) of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge devised a way to isolate and reproduce monoclonal antibodies - identical antibodies cloned from a single cell - in mice. 

These pure antibodies could, for the first time, be manufactured in large quantities and to a pre-defined specification. Antibodies have a wide range of research and commercial applications, from treating cancer and transplant rejection to diagnosing pregnancy and AIDS. 

The technique has sparked a billion-pound international biotechnology industry: monoclonal antibodies are the basis of a third of all biotech products in clinical development. For their discovery Milstein and Köhler won the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. 

Science Museum

Decade
Type
Medicine,
Region
East Anglia
Location
University of Cambridge
Key Individuals
Cesar Milstein, Georges Kohler,