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New Lupus Drug Results From Scripps Research Technology
Date:3/9/2011

Benlysta® (itself a type of immune molecule) acts by targeting a specific protein called B-lymphocyte stimulator, or BLyS, involved in stimulating the "autoantibodies" causing lupus and certain other autoimmune disorders.

Benlysta® is the first approved drug that disables BLyS, thus preventing the immune system's destructive attacks against the body.

The Foundation

In the 1980s the therapeutic potential of antibodies—which recognize a wide range of foreign pathogens, then alert the immune system to the presence of the invaders—was widely recognized, as they are an important part of the body's natural system for fighting illness. But tapping that potential had proven difficult. Researchers at the time were working mainly with short snippets of antibodies and testing their effects through a slow and painstaking petri-dish process.

But Lerner led a Scripps Research team that made two critical advances to transform the field, ultimately leading to the discovery and development of drugs such as Benlysta®.

The researchers first developed a method of combining different pieces of antibodies isolated from human or animal cells into proteins long enough to encompass natural antibodies' most critical portions—the parts actually binding to and neutralizing infectious agents or otherwise unwanted material. The scientists dubbed this technique "repertoire cloning," because it allowed them to build libraries of compounds that encompassed the full repertoire of a natural immune system.

This was a game-changing development.

Eliminating the Petri-Dish Bottleneck

But even with an expansive repertoire, putting it to use was a separate problem. It was a second key Scripps Research discovery that helped eliminate the petri-dish bottleneck.

In the 1989 to 1991 timeframe, Lerner and his colleagues pioneered a technique for employing phage display to facilitate large "comb
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SOURCE The Scripps Research Institute
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