Funding Awarded for SBIR Phase II Grant

On February 1, 2003 ATS was awarded an $800,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. This three-year grant will support the creation of monoclonal antibodies to the extracellular domains of G protein-coupled receptors. These receptors play an important role in all aspects of human health, reflecting their widespread presence in the human physiology, especially the nervous systems.

The five somatostatin receptors have been selected as the first candidates for antibody development because of their importance in neuronal systems, biology, and nervous system pathologies. ATS plans to create recombinant antibodies to these receptors. The best of these antibodies will be modified to demonstrate that biologically active molecules can be inserted into cells that express the somatostatin receptors (SSTRs).

There are no commercially available monoclonals to extracellular domains of SSTRs. The availability of new monoclonal antibodies would be an outstanding contribution to scientific discovery, e.g. the pain research field.

The innovations in this project are several. The development of reagents for insertion of biologically active cells will be important for developing new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and pain pathologies, among others. Despite widespread use of recombinant antibodies in cancer biology with their ability to be modified through the construction of fusion proteins, they are still extremely rare and make this a novel approach.

In preparation for this project, ATS acquired a Biomek 2000 robotic workstation (Beckman Coulter) which will be used for high throughput liquid handling such as the large number of ELISAs required for the development of antibodies.

With sophisticated equipment and talented, experienced personnel, ATS expects to release the first five monoclonal antibodies early in 2004. After comparing the monoclonals to recombinant antibodies for specificity, immunotoxins will be developed using the best performers.