(429a) Accelerating Antibody Discovery with Cell-Free Systems | AIChE

(429a) Accelerating Antibody Discovery with Cell-Free Systems


Hunt, A. - Presenter, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Jewett, M., Northwestern University
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for rapid, high-throughput, and robust therapeutic antibody screening platforms. Advances in both synthetic selections and antibody repertoire mining have enabled the rapid identification of hundreds of candidate binders in a single experiment. However, the expression and evaluation of these candidate antibodies still remains a major bottleneck in the discovery pipeline due to labor intensive steps and process throughput mismatches. In this work, we present a newly developed workflow that leverages cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) and an Echo® 525 acoustic liquid handler to enable the expression and evaluation of hundreds of antibodies in a single experiment. Our workflow consists of a cell-free DNA assembly step to generate antibody expression templates, a modified E. coli CFPS system to express antibodies, and the AlphaLISA protein-protein interaction assay to evaluate binding. Each step of this workflow can be carried out entirely within 384-well plates without ever going into cells, making it highly suitable for automation. The resulting platform is capable of evaluating more than an order of magnitude more antibody candidates in less than half the time when compared to state-of-the-art antibody discovery pipelines. To validate the platform, we expressed 13 different human antibodies, 12 of which neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We evaluated these antibodies by mapping their target epitopes and evaluating their ability to compete with ACE2, the SARS-CoV-2 target human receptor. Our results are largely consistent with published literature on these antibodies, indicating our workflow is suitable for identifying therapeutic candidates. We expect that these advancements will accelerate antibody discovery and development not only for viral diseases like COVID-19, but for the entire antibody industry.