“Magic bullets.”
Professor Bill Davis uses that term to explain monoclonal antibodies to the scientifically uninitiated.
Davis, who joined the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1968, is an internationally known researcher investigating antibody function and the immune response to infectious agents.
Cells of the immune system, which help prevent disease in animals, recognize the presence of foreign bodies, like viruses or bacteria. The cells then produce antibodies to neutralize or kill the invaders.
A monoclonal antibody is produced in a laboratory to recognize only one specific molecule. Like a bullet, it can selectively target that molecule. It is therefore useful in disease diagnosis, immune response research and vaccine development.
Local collaboration, global effect
With applications in cancer treatment, in purifying substances and in many other areas, monoclonal antibodies have become valuable products in the global marketplace.
In the 1970s, researchers developed the technology to produce monoclonal antibodies for human medical research. By 1979, Davis was using that technology to create monoclonal antibodies for research on animal diseases.
That same year, Scott Adams earned a Ph.D. from the WSU Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology. In 1980, he founded VMRD Inc. in Pullman. The connection between Davis, the researcher, and VMRD, the distributor of his research products, was quickly established.
The company sells 159 different products based upon the monoclonal antibodies identified and produced in Davis’ lab. These products are sold around the world to researchers creating vaccines and conducting immunological research on various diseases in cattle, pigs and horses — as well as dogs and cats.
Fees support more research
With the fees he is paid for the rights to distribute his antibodies, Davis supports further research into understanding the immune system and curing animal disease. The funds are returned to the university to pay for salaries, equipment and supplies at the WSU Monoclonal Antibody Center.
The center has identified, and made available to researchers worldwide, approximately 1,000 monoclonal antibodies — so far. Researchers continue to develop new reagents for use by diagnostic laboratories and the research community worldwide.