Betenbaugh research seeks better control of antibody production

Antibodies are blood proteins created by the immune system in response to a certain antigen. Antibodies have become the chief component in myriad medicine applications from diagnostic tests to several widely used pharmaceuticals for the treatment of asthma, arthritis, cancer and more.

How handy would it be to be able control the function of the antibodies made in a lab, simply by tweaking the nutrient media that you used to grown them in? And how useful would it be, if you could increase the quantity of antibodies produced, also be modifying the media in which they were created?


Bound for destruction: Y-shapted antibody binds t-cell and macrophage to tumor cell.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers seek more efficient ways to grow genetically engineered human antibodies on a large scale. Through a partnership with MedImmune, researchers in the laboratory of Michael Betenbaugh are taking an engineering approach to the solution. Betenbaugh, professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and an affiliate of Johns Hopkins INBT, seeks to discover ways to improve the growth media for the antibody-producing microbes. Their lab is not only looking at more efficient ways to grow large quantities of antibodies via microbes but also to find out if the properties of the antibodies can be influenced by the properties of the media in which the microbes are grown.

To read more about this research and the partnership with MedImmune, visit this link.

MedImmune scientist focuses final INBT seminar on ‘soft skills’


Ambarish Shah of MedImmune

Ambarish Shah, Senior Manager and Principal Scientist at MedImmune Inc., presented the final Professional Development Seminar talk hosted by the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) on July 28. Shah’s presentation included an overview of the Biopharmaceutical industry and offered an insider’s perspective on how MedImmune manages the process of protein drug development.

Shah stated that “success in your careers will not only depend on how well you master the scientific principles in theory but more so how you apply them innovatively,” impressing upon students the value of applying science to solving practical problems. In addition, he stressed the acquisition of “soft skills” along with science, such as people skills and networking. Shah stressed the importance of protecting one’s intellectual property, as well as the safety and efficacy of a product. Despite the risks and costs, he urged students to always remember the altruistic purpose behind their work, cautioning: “don’t get attached to projects, get attached to science.”

Due to the fact that new research in the field is presented at technical conferences or published in peer reviewed journals, scientists tend to speak in technical terms that are too complex for the general public to understand. Shah stated that the field is missing “the clarity in linking what we do scientifically in our labs to the tangible benefits the general public end user will see, and a good forum to share it in.”

Shah offered students insight in understanding career development, stating that career success comes from a combination of many good personal attributes such as clarity of communication, willingness to a make a persistent effort, teamwork, and of course an analytical problem solving mind (all of these which can be learned through deliberate practice). Most importantly he advised students that “Grades and publications matter, but just to get the first job. After the first job, the only thing that matters is demonstrated results.”

Shah received his PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Mercer University in 1998, a Master of Science from Duquesne University, and a Bachelor of Pharmacy from Bombay University in India. He has been in the field for over twelve years and is currently the Principal Scientist/Group leader for MedImmune’s Dept. of Formulation Sciences in Gaithersburg, Md.

Story by Sarah Gubara, Senior, Psychology, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences