Editor’s note: Antibodies are the proverbial research tool of the life sciences. These multi-tasking macromolecules have enormous potential beyond basic research functions such as protein detection. This kind of potential is being unlocked by scientists like Steve Knutson, an immunoassay researcher at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Using creativity to exploit the functionality of a primary antibody, Knutson demonstrates the synthesis of a fluorescent antibody-drug conjugate (ADC). Fresh from a PLoS ONE publication and method video describing his findings, we caught up with Knutson, who was also preparing for Ph.D. candidacy at the University of Utah. With his timely paper coinciding with other evolutions in antibody tools, he shares insight into the future of the technology and some of the inspiration that fueled his research.
Q: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your publication?
A: I think the credit goes to my mentor, Surbhi Desai. This was really her brainchild, and she recruited me to figure out how to biochemically construct and evaluate this conjugate. The Thermo Fisher site in Rockford, IL specializes in protein/antibody modification, and it was a really good fit with both the strengths of our R&D team, and my own research interests.
Q: How did you first get into science?
A: As a kid, I think the movie “Jurassic Park” sparked my initial interest in science, and my family really nurtured that curiosity. I also had some awesome high school biology teachers who solidified that interest, and I eventually pursued molecular/cell biology in college and graduate school.
Q: Why did the area of antibodies and immunoassay development interest you?
A: Simply put, I think this field is incredibly exciting. Antibodies are extremely useful as research tools, and very powerful as medical agents. It’s amazing to work in this field, and see these technologies progressively advance in both basic research and clinical applications.
Q: What would be the main takeaway from your PLoS ONE paper and method video?
A: That simultaneous, dual-labeling of antibodies or other proteins is quite economical and easy, and can be used for a huge variety of combinations. It’s a really simple, but potentially powerful idea.
Q: You were the first to publish the method behind fluorescent ADC. Where do you see this technology going?
A: I think other researchers will use this protocol to create an incredibly vast array of bi-functional antibody or protein conjugates for a variety of biomedical purposes. This is just the beginning. I really look forward to the outcomes of these different combinations, and the potential to create entirely new tools for disease treatment and diagnosis in the future.
Knutson S, Raja E, Bomgarden R, Nlend M, Chen A, Kalyanasundaram R, et al. (2016) Development and Evaluation of a Fluorescent Antibody-Drug Conjugate for Molecular Imaging and Targeted Therapy of Pancreatic Cancer. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157762. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157762
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