Toxins, while harmful and potentially lethal, have been engineered to develop potent therapeutics including cytotoxins and immunotoxins (ITs), which are modalities with highly selective targeting capabilities. Currently, three cytotoxins and IT are FDA-approved for treatment of multiple forms of hematological cancer, and additional ITs are tested in the clinical trials or at the preclinical level. For next generation of ITs, as well as antibody-mediated drug delivery systems, specific targeting by monoclonal antibodies is critical to enhance efficacies and reduce side effects, and this methodological field remains open to discover potent therapeutic monoclonal antibodies. Here, we describe our application of engineered toxin termed a cell-based IT screening system. This unique screening strategy offers the following advantages: (1) identification of monoclonal antibodies that recognize cell-surface molecules, (2) selection of the antibodies that are internalized into the cells, (3) selection of the antibodies that induce cytotoxicity since they are linked with toxins, and (4) determination of state-specific activities of the antibodies by differential screening under multiple experimental conditions. Since the functional monoclonal antibodies with internalization capacities have been identified successfully, we have pursued their subsequent modifications beyond antibody drug conjugates, resulting in development of immunoliposomes. Collectively, this screening system by using engineered toxin is a versatile platform, which enables straight-forward and rapid selection for discovery of novel functional antibodies.
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