The Need for Custom Antibodies
Custom antibodies are required for a variety of reasons – often to detect a novel biomarker or target, or to improve on the performance of a commercially available product. They can be needed for any one of a number of in vitro assays (e.g. western blotting, IHC, ELISA, immunoprecipitation, FACS) or in vivo applications.
Searching for custom antibodies brings up a vast array of suppliers, offering a wide range of products. The product needed will depend on your target, assay of choice (which is nicely reviewed here for specific custom antibody applications), and research goals, but there are a number of factors to be considered which will have an impact on pretty much every custom antibody project.
Top Factors when Selecting Custom Antibody Suppliers
While a lot of people don’t instantly want to think about money, this may be a key factor in choosing your product and supplier. You need to know reasonably early on if a vendor of choice can supply a product you need at a price that works for you.
Polyclonal antibodies are the lowest cost and often times the quickest option, but may not be suitable for your research needs. They are usually used for qualitative detection assays (e.g. western blot) or purification, with a wider utility across assay types.
Monoclonals come at a higher price, with much more development work on screening and selection needed. While they can’t be as widely used across assay types, they are essential for quantitative methods and assays requiring repeat consistent performance across batches.
As with most custom products, almost all vendors will require you to contact them directly for pricing since there are wide variations in project scope and requirements that can impact the price.
Also important when choosing a vendor is their experience (which may be linked back to cost). You may want a vendor with a long track record who can provide multiple citations of their previous work, and examples of custom jobs similar to your request.
Companies such as Abcam and GenScript feature citation lists on their websites covering products they have produced. Many custom antibody suppliers also offer off the shelf antibodies, which can be good for gauging experience and quality. Others such as Cambridge Research Biochemicals provide information on how well their developed antibodies have performed for antigen recognition and in specific assays.
Suppliers specialising in custom antibodies should be able to advise on all aspects of your project, from antigen selection onwards.
Different vendors may specialise in providing antibodies from a certain species or of a certain clonality, which could be important for your project. For example, if you need an antibody for an in vivo mouse model study, then choosing an antibody raised in hamster would be beneficial, so an immune response is not induced. There is also an increased popularity in antibodies from niche species such as llama due to their unique single chain antibodies.
Timelines and Techniques
Another important factor is time for development and production, especially if you are on tight timelines. Many suppliers provide timeline information on their websites, and any techniques they use to speed up production, for example:
- For an Abcam RabMab® antibody, immunization to delivery of hybridomas takes 7-8 months
- Phases of hybridoma development by Leinco total 40 weeks maximum
Scale Up Capacity
One final point is scale up – if you need bulk quantities is this something that your supplier of choice can provide, and what are their timelines? Find a supplier like Leinco, who specializes in quick production and bioreactor capacity for large scale antibody production
Custom Antibody Vendors
Many of the most popular vendors of custom antibodies have been mentioned above, some specific choices include:
- GenScript for a wide range of services including monoclonal antibodies, polyclonal, recombinant antibody services etc.
- Abcam have a specialty service for rabbit monoclonal antibodies, with over 50 institutions and 150 pharma, diagnostics, and biotech companies using their custom service
- Leinco has a good platform including developing monoclonal antibodies in hamsters, as well as the ability to scale up for bulk quantities