Resources Blog How Therapeutic Antibodies Are Produced: Identifying the Target Antigen

How Therapeutic Antibodies Are Produced: Identifying the Target Antigen

Biointron 2024-02-21 Read time: 3 mins
Antigen binding site. DOI: 10.3390/antib8040055

Therapeutic antibodies are now targeting previously untreatable conditions like cancer, autoimmune diseases, and viral infections. This article delves into the process of creating these drugs, exploring their development from target identification to clinical application.

Identifying the Target Antigen

Developing a therapeutic antibody typically starts with finding a specific disease-associated antigen. These antigens are proteins expressed on the surface of pathogens or diseased cells, and the antibody’s specificity ensures it hits the right target with minimal collateral damage to healthy tissues. This maximizes the drug's efficacy and minimizes side effects.1

Biomedical researchers utilize various techniques to identify and validate target antigens. These include: 

  • Genomic and proteomic analyses: These techniques examine the genetic and protein makeup of diseased cells, pinpointing molecules uniquely associated with the disease. 

  • Immunological assays: These assess the ability of potential targets to trigger an immune response, a prerequisite for antibody-based therapy. 

  • High-throughput screening: This technology enables rapid testing of numerous potential targets, sifting through vast libraries of molecules. 

  • Bioinformatics: Powerful computational tools analyze vast datasets, helping researchers identify patterns and predict potential targets. 

  • Molecular biology techniques: These allow researchers to delve deeper, understanding the function and expression of potential targets within the disease context. 

One of the key challenges in this stage is distinguishing between antigens that are merely present in the disease state and those that play a critical role in disease progression.2

  • Disease relevance: Scientists need to ensure the target plays a causal role in disease progression, not just being a side effect or symptom. 

  • Drugability: The target should be accessible and structurally suitable for antibody binding and subsequent action. 

  • Specificity and tissue distribution: The target should be unique to the diseased cells, minimizing potential damage to healthy tissues. 

Further validation can also include:3

  • Functional studies: Understanding how the target protein contributes to disease and how its disruption might impact the disease process. 

  • Animal models: Testing the efficacy and safety of targeting the chosen antigen in living organisms. 

  • Predictive modeling: Utilizing computational tools to assess potential risks and side effects before moving to human trials.  

Biointron can help in your therapeutic antibody discovery. We provide services for VHH Antibody Discovery, Single B Cell Screening, and Hybridoma Sequencing. Learn more here:


  1. Chiu, M. L., Goulet, D. R., Teplyakov, A., & Gilliland, G. L. (2019). Antibody Structure and Function: The Basis for Engineering Therapeutics. Antibodies, 8(4).

  2. Emmerich, C. H., Gamboa, L. M., J. Hofmann, M. C., Bonin-Andresen, M., Arbach, O., Schendel, P., Gerlach, B., Hempel, K., Bespalov, A., Dirnagl, U., & Parnham, M. J. (2021). Improving target assessment in biomedical research: The GOT-IT recommendations. Nature Reviews. Drug Discovery, 20(1), 64-81.

  3. Pantaleo, G., Correia, B., Fenwick, C., Joo, V. S., & Perez, L. (2022). Antibodies to combat viral infections: Development strategies and progress. Nature Reviews. Drug Discovery, 21(9), 676-696.

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