“A” Protein of Potential
Where would the biopharma industry be without Protein A? And can it ever be topped?
Jonathan Royce |
Protein A is a true workhorse of the pharma industry. It has been used for decades and is well established as the preferred method of purification for monoclonal antibodies because of the high yield and purity achieved in a single step (1). The technique is so common today that it is often referred to by its own acronym: “PAC” – Protein A chromatography (2), but most scientists today take Protein A for granted, without so much of a thought as to where it came from, or how much work the industry has put into refining and enhancing its abilities.
Looking back on the past techniques and technologies in one’s industry is always fascinating. Protein A is naturally occurring and natural selection has bestowed it with high selectivity. It was first discovered in 1958 when Klaus Jensen at the University of Copenhagen reported the existence of an antigen associated with staphylococci that reacted with 500 types of normal human serum. He called this antigen “Antigen A”. Four years later, two professors from the University of Umeå (Sweden), John Sjöquist and Torvald Löfkvist, demonstrated that the so-called antigen was actually a surface-wall protein on the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Two years thereafter, the Bergen group gave the protein its current name, Protein A. However, it was not until 1966 that Sjöquist and a doctoral fellow, Arne Forsgren, published the results of crucial experiments demonstrating that Protein A bound to the Fc part of IgG. The interaction was described as a pseudo-immune reaction and sparked a great deal of additional research on the microbiology, biochemistry and biological activity of the protein (3).
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