Short history of monoclonal antibody

The idea of a "magic bullet" was first proposed by Paul Ehrlich, who, at the beginning of the 20th century, postulated that, if a compound could be made that selectively targeted a disease-causing organism, then a toxin for that organism could be delivered along with the agent of selectivity. He and Élie Metchnikoff received the 1908 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for this work, which led to an effective syphilis treatment by 1910.

In the 1970s, the B-cell cancer multiple myeloma was known, and it was understood that these cancerous B-cells all produce a single type of antibody (a paraprotein). This was used to study the structure of antibodies, but it was not yet possible to produce identical antibodies specific to a given antigen.

Production of monoclonal antibodies involving human–mouse hybrid cells was described by Jerrold Schwaber in 1973[1] and remains widely cited among those using human-derived hybridomas,[2] but claims to priority have been controversial. A science history paper on the subject gave some credit to Schwaber for inventing a technique that was widely cited, but stopped short of suggesting that he had been cheated.[3] The invention was conceived by George Pieczenik, with John Sedat, Elizabeth Blackburn's husband, as a witness and reduced to practice by Cotton and Milstein, and then by Kohler and Milstein. Georges Köhler, César Milstein, and Niels Kaj Jerne in 1975;[4] who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1984 for the discovery. The key idea was to use a line of myeloma cells that had lost their ability to secrete antibodies, come up with a technique to fuse these cells with healthy antibody-producing B-cells, and be able to select for the successfully fused cells.

In 1988, Greg Winter and his team pioneered the techniques to humanize monoclonal antibodies,[5] removing the reactions that many monoclonal antibodies caused in some patients.