Aberdeen University spinout to commercialise antibodies
10 August 2011
Vertebrate Antibodies (VAb) Limited is a new biotech company
spun out of the University of Aberdeen to provide new tools to help
researchers trying to understand the biology and process of diseases
that affect humans and animals.
VAb Limited will produce and commercialise antibodies for life
sciences researchers. They are created within the laboratory and
mimic antibodies produced naturally in our own bodies.
The antibodies will allow scientists to undertake new research
and could also help with the development of new diagnostic and
therapeutic strategies for the treatment of human and animal
diseases. The body’s immune system protects itself naturally from
disease by producing antibodies which detect foreign proteins
produced by harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses.
These antibodies detect proteins — which are the major component
of the invading organism — and bind to those foreign proteins
preventing the foreign invader from causing harm. For more than 30
years scientists have exploited this clever mechanism to create
man-made antibodies that can help in human health and research.
These tailor-made antibodies act like a homing device detecting
the presence of the specific protein of interest and are commonly
used as ‘markers’ for specific diseases, such as cancers, where a
particular protein is only expressed when a particular disease or
condition is present.
As a result, antibodies created in the laboratory have become one
of the most effective tools for advancing biological understanding,
as well as revolutionising the development of therapeutic strategies
and diagnostic tests. However to date the focus has been on human
health and little has been done to develop antibody tools for use in
other species of animals.
Over the last two years, a trio of researchers at the University
of Aberdeen — fish immunologist Steve Bird, experienced antibody
developer Beatriz Cash and biotech commercialisation expert Ayham
Alnabulsi — have honed the technique of antibody production to make
it cost effective, less complicated for researchers and applicable
to a range of different animals as well as people.
VAb will continue to work towards developing antibodies for human
research but will provide a more extensive service for researchers
working in animal health. Now the VAb team is keen to raise
awareness through the life sciences community of the new tools and
services they can provide.
Dr Bird, one of the founders of VAb said: “As researchers
ourselves, we have inside knowledge of the needs of colleagues
working in research institutes, universities and the biotech and
pharma industries worldwide. We are also taking advantage of all the
history, current strengths, and amazing teams of bioscientists
working at Aberdeen and across Scotland and believe we are ideally
placed to build long term relationships across the sector’s research
and development community worldwide.
"The tools we produce will have a massive impact on the research
which today is underpinning the development of new drugs and
therapies, which has enormous economic as well as health benefits.
We are already talking to colleagues working in veterinary,
agricultural and aquaculture research and management, about their
priorities, and how we can develop the species-specific antibody
tools they desperately need for their valuable research.”
The company is being supported by a private investor, Mr Mohamed
Saleh, an engineer and entrepreneur with investments within the
Middle East, who said: “VAb is within a niche that remains largely
unexploited and represents an exciting opportunity for future
“Additionally, I have a strong network of collaborators within
the Middle East & North Africa where research is expanding and these
links will help strengthen VAb's future prospect.”
Welcoming the launch of the new spinout company, Professor
Stephen Logan, Senior Vice-Principal of the University and himself a
bioscientist commented: “I am delighted to see this further example
of exciting new research honed in laboratories at the University of
Aberdeen and now to become available to research colleagues working
in other universities, institutes and biotechnology companies which
are working to improve human and animal health. I wish Vertebrate
Antibodies every success.”
Vertebrate Antibodies will operate from the University’s College
of Life Sciences and Medicine.
For more information see: