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Increasing numbers of medicines are molecules that are of biological origin. Unfortunately, such medicines can induce an undesirable response from the immune system. How can we measure such a response? What mechanisms are governing it? Answers to such questions have been provided by the ambitious European Project Abirisk, supported by the Innovative Medicines Initiative. This unique project, in which numerous pharmaceutical manufacturers have worked alongside academic researchers, is continuing to attract the full attention of the global scientific community.
Bernard Maillère, a researcher at the CEA1, coordinated one of the three subprojects of Abirisk, and says, "The Americans envy us this high-performance program that has no equivalent anywhere else in the world."
"The standout result of Abirisk was the discovery of the molecular origin of immunogenicity," explains the researcher. "We were able to identify particular sequences of amino acids whose presence in any given molecule determines immunogenicity. This enabled us to develop a test for predicting the immunogenicity of new molecules."
"This work has a very fundamental substrate,” emphasizes Bernard Maillère, "because it takes us back to the issue of the molecular self."
"Abirisk has given our team extraordinary visibility," stresses the researcher. "More than six months after the end of the project, I have been invited to an upcoming seminar held by the Food and Drug Administration. And the adventure is continuing with the industrial partners of Abirisk: the laboratory has been awarded four industrial contracts and two theses!"
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.