Biological stealth bombers in the war on cancer, and on the frontlines of Parkinson’s disease research

There is no doubt that monoclonal antibodies are behind some of the most novel research in oncology today. We have therapeutic antibodies that target a specific cancer gene or protein to keep the tumor from spreading. We also have immune checkpoint inhibitors that use antibodies to stimulate or inhibit keep activators of the immune system. Antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) is yet another strategy. ADCs are like Trojan horses because they trick tumors into allowing a cell to intake a payload of toxic material. ADCs combine the best of protein and small molecule therapies; antibodies are covalently joined to toxins with a chemical linker to act as drone-like weapons against tumors. A recent magazine article in BioProcess International by Charles River scientists Ulrike Herbrand, Chris Sucato and Alvaro Jorge Amor, discusses some of the potency, regulatory and bioprocessing concerns in the manufacture of ADCs.  

“Because ADCs are such complex structures, they present significant bioprocessing challenges compared with stand-alone MAbs. Both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) treat ADCs as biologics,” the authors write. “But because ADCs are both drugs and biological molecules (a MAb paired with a conjugate that is typically a chemical entity such as oligonucleotide, peptide, or small molecule), analytical tests need to be appropriate for multiple biochemical and chemical species.”

Parkinson’s research

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the world, with around 60,000 new cases each year in the United States alone. According to a report this year from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, complications from PD are the 14th most likely cause of death in the US.

While there are medications available to treat symptoms of PD, none reverse the effects of the disease. Two areas of study could change that. An article published earlier this month in Fierce Biotech, talks about two exciting areas of drug discovery Charles River is working in that could potentially lead us to a cure for the disease. One area includes the aggregation of alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodies, the other is a mutation in LRRK2 (Leucine-rich repeat Kinase 2), a gene that encodes enzymes.

Common consensus among researchers is that developing compounds that target alpha-synuclein and its aggregation, or compounds that inhibit LRRK2 could offer huge potential to treat PD. The article describes how Charles River is working across multiple sites to better understand the pathophysiology of PD and to develop imaging agents to use as biomarkers in clinical studies. The work is being funded by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.