In vitro-engineered non-antibody protein therapeutics
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Antibodies have proved to be a valuable mode of therapy for numerous diseases, mainly owing to their high target binding affinity and specificity. Unfortunately, antibodies are also limited in several respects, chief amongst those being the extremely high cost of manufacture. Therefore, non-antibody binding proteins have long been sought after as alternative therapies. New binding protein scaffolds are constantly being designed or discovered with some already approved for human use by the FDA. This review focuses on protein scaffolds that are either already being used in humans or are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Although not all are expected to be approved, the significant benefits ensure that these molecules will continue to be investigated and developed as therapeutic alternatives to antibodies. Based on the location of the amino acids that mediate ligand binding, we place all the protein scaffolds under clinical development into two general categories: scaffolds with ligand-binding residues located in exposed flexible loops, and those with the binding residues located in protein secondary structures, such as α-helices. Scaffolds that fall under the first category include adnectins, anticalins, avimers, Fynomers, Kunitz domains, and knottins, while those belonging to the second category include affibodies, β-hairpin mimetics, and designed ankyrin repeat proteins (DARPins). Most of these scaffolds are thermostable and can be easily produced in microorganisms or completely synthesized chemically. In addition, many of these scaffolds derive from human proteins and thus possess very low immunogenic potential. Additional advantages and limitations of these protein scaffolds as therapeutics compared to antibodies will be discussed.
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