Biotechnologists win international animal welfare award Innovative developments and applications of non-animal antibodies
The team of Abcalis GmbH in the Department of Biotechnology at Technische Universität Braunschweig has been awarded the ECEAE prize for non-animal antibodies, endowed with 10,000 euros. The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (“ECEAE” for short) aims to raise awareness of the benefits of non-animal antibodies for research or medical purposes and to promote their development and application with this prize, which is being awarded for the first time.
On behalf of the team at Abcalis GmbH, a spin-off of TU Braunschweig, Dr Esther Wenzel, a scientist in the Biotechnology Department, accepted the award at a ceremony in Brussels on Wednesday, 30 March 2022, in the presence of members of the European Parliament: “Antibodies are substances that are used very widely in therapy and research and are used as detection reagents in countless diagnostic tests. In contrast to the antibodies used elsewhere, our antibodies are not produced in animals but entirely in the test tube by biotechnological processes. As a result, they offer advantages to users because, compared to blood products from animals, they are always precisely molecularly defined and can be produced in unlimited quantities. With these properties, we also want to ultimately improve the reliability of medical tests on the market.”
The prize was presented by Dr Corina Gericke from the ECEAE Board of Directors. In her laudatory speech, she said: “Abcalis is a true pioneer in animal-free antibody production. With state-of-the-art phage display technology, a catalogue of established animal-free vegan antibodies, and a service for generating new antibodies, the company offers innovative tools for modern research without animal testing.”
Professor Stefan Dübel, Head of the Department of Biotechnology at Technische Universität Braunschweig, explains that unfortunately, animal experiments are by no means completely avoidable at present if medical care for people is to be further improved. “However, there are definitely areas in which they can already be largely replaced today thanks to modern biotechnological methods. One of these areas is the production of antibodies. My student dream of being able to produce antibodies for everyone without animal testing has finally become reality after 30 years. We have shown what non-animal technology can do: As one of very few laboratories worldwide, we were able to produce completely animal-free antibodies against the coronavirus – also against the omicron variant – in record time. This is because with our production method we do not have to wait for the immune reaction of animals as we do with conventional antibody production,” Dübel explains.
The Abcalis project
The Abcalis founding team is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the European Social Fund as part of the EXIST research transfer programme with the aim of improving the quality of diagnostic tests through “vegan antibodies” produced without animal testing. The Abcalis team has already received several awards for its animal-free antibody technology, including the Lower Saxony Innovation Award.
About the ECEAE
The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE) is an organisation that campaigns for animal protection and in particular for the abolition of animal experiments. The focus is on animal experiments in cosmetics and on experiments with primates. The coalition includes 17 European animal protection organisations.