ARIEL UNIVERSITY Antibody breakthrough

Researchers at Ariel University have discovered a way to purify antibodies for use in immunotherapy drugs, which has caught the attention of the pharmaceutical world

Despite the revolutionary advances of modern medicine, some diseases can still hit us with fresh challenges every day. It’s one such challenge that Dr Guy Patchornik, a researcher in the Chemical Sciences department of Ariel University, and his student Dr Gunasekaran Dhandapani have been working hard to solve. The last two decades have seen the

introduction of biological drugs. A new class of medications, they contain an antibody that directs the drug to specific cells and thereby minimize unwanted side-effects. These drugs are employed in targeted, personalized therapies that help the immune system fight diseases without harming normal cells. Given the great potential of these medications

— which could be used to treat illnesses such as cancer, facilitate organ transplantation or even battle viral diseases like Covid-19 — the medical world is facing an urgent need to manufacture and purify large quantities of their antibody component. But the purification process remains complex and expensive, despite significant technical advances in production, and pharmaceutical firms have been hard at work searching for cost-effective alternatives to satisfy global demand. That’s where Dr Patchornik and Dr Dhandapani come in.

From conducting university research to making a global breakthrough Through their research at Ariel University, Dr Patchornik and Dr Dhandapani introduced a new principle for antibody purification based on the ability of submicroscopic soap bubbles to stick to each other. In essence, their research group has found the conditions under which antibodies are captured by those sticky bubbles, while leaving most water-soluble impurities in the water. The pure antibodies can then be carefully detached from the soap. This innovative purification platform appears

to be economical and, what’s more, it remains efficient at high antibody concentrations. And that’s why it has caught the eye of a leading pharmaceutical company, which is currently assessing the possibility of upscaling this technology to industrial levels. The team at Ariel University continues to work

on finding innovative ways in which this purification technique can be used. It’s Dr Dhandapani’s enthusiasm, dedication and scientific input that has transformed this project from an interesting scientific finding at university level to a breakthrough that could be presented to the world’s leading biotechnology companies, as a viable solution to a global problem.

The University Wastewater Treatment Facility, designed by its chemical engineers, treats up to 400 cubic meters of wastewater per day, enough to irrigate the Ariel University Botanical Garden

FROM LEFT: Ariel University campus building; pipetting fluid into a petri dish containing stem cells; Dr Gunasekaran Dhandapani and Dr Guy Patchornik

2021 | Israeli Academia 23

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