Similarities of beer and antibody production



How is beer and antibody production similar (and different…)?

Antibodies are used by the immune system to identify and neutralize agents that can cause disease. Each antibody is specific and works similar to a lock and key, by recognising and binding to a unique region. Although there are different types of antibodies, monoclonal antibodies (antibodies produced from the same parent cell) are most commonly in the top ten best-selling biopharmaceuticals.


The therapeutic properties of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are used to treat cancer (e.g. breast, lung and prostate) and autoimmune (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) disease. There is no cure for these type of diseases, however therapeutics can treat an early onset. For example, in cancer, monoclonal antibodies can: make cancer cells more visible to the immune system, block growth signals, stop blood vessels from forming and supplying blood and deliver radiation/chemotherapy to cancer cells.


To produce large quantities of monoclonal antibodies to treat patients, cells are engineered to produce mAbs. Cells are put into a vessel for a certain amount of days to secrete the mAbs into the culture broth. After which the broth is centrifuged to separate the cells, purified and packaged into syringes or vials ready for transport. A similar process and equipment is used for beer production in which yeast is fermented and grown to make beer.


In beer production, the way beer is produced (temperature, time, mixing, nutrients) can affect the taste. Similarly, with therapeutics the way it is produced can affect the amount produced, its function (ability to target cancer cells) and stability (ability to maintain its structure). Therefore, being able to analyse the mAb using a range of different analytical techniques can help ensure consistency between different batches.