Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Why are monoclonal antibody therapies in focus & how they work?

Topics Covered: Biotechnology related issues.

Why are monoclonal antibody therapies in focus & how they work?


India is facing shortages of the two monoclonal antibody therapies — Itolizumab and Tocilizumab.

  • In this article, we shall understand what are antibodies and monoclonal antibodies.

What are Monoclonal antibodies?

They are artificially created antibodies that aim to aid the body’s natural immune system.

They target a specific antigen — a protein from the pathogen that induces immune response.

How are they created?

Monoclonal antibodies can be created in the lab by exposing white blood cells to a particular antigen.

To increase the quantity of antibodies produced, a single white blood cell is cloned, which in turn is used to create identical copies of the antibodies.

  • In the case of Covid-19, scientists usually work with the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which facilitates the entry of the virus into the host cell.

Need for monoclonal antibodies:

In a healthy body, the immune system is able to create antibodies — tiny Y-shaped proteins in our blood that recognise microbial enemies and bind to them, signalling the immune system to then launch an attack on the pathogen.

However, for people whose immune systems are unable to make sufficient amounts of these antibodies, scientists provide a helping hand- using monoclonal antibodies.


The idea of delivering antibodies to treat a disease dates as far back as the 1900s, when Nobel-prize winning German immunologist Paul Ehrlich proposed the idea of a ‘Zauberkugel‘ (magic bullet), a compound which selectively targets a pathogen.

  • From then, it took eight decades of research to finally arrive at Muromonab-CD3, the world’s first monoclonal antibody to be approved for clinical use in humans.
  • Muromonab-CD3 is an immunosuppressant drug given to reduce acute rejection in patients with organ transplants.


Monoclonal antibodies are now relatively common. They are used in treating Ebola, HIV, psoriasis etc.


Prelims Link:

  1. What are antibodies?
  2. What are monoclonal antibodies?
  3. How they are created?
  4. Applications.

Sources: the Print.