Ex-Penn researcher launches a biotech startup to manufacture antibodies in Philly

Antibodies are crucial for scientists and their lab work, but the manufacturing industry has struggled with consistent quality.

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Madison Tewey in the lab

Philadelphia biotechnology startup Cell Surface Bio spun out of parent company Integral Molecular this week. Madison Tewey is a research associate at Cell Surface Bio describing data obtained using the startup's antibody in the lab. (Kevin Monko)

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In mid-May, Philadelphia-based life sciences company Integral Molecular birthed the biotech startup Cell Surface Bio, which manufactures antibodies for industry and academic researchers and scientists.

“Many antibodies today in the scientific market are not renewable, or they come from animal sources every time. And that means it uses a lot of animals,” said Ben Doranz, CEO. “It’s also not reliable because every animal is different, and it changes over time. But our antibodies are reliable because they’re cloned.”

Cell Surface Bio’s antibodies are derived from a chicken and mass-produced by cloning. It is sold in small quantities and is a very valuable product.

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“The size of a teardrop,” Doranz said. “They’re the tools that scientists use every day in cell biology labs to understand the types of proteins that they’re working on to develop new drugs for cancer or diabetes.”

Doranz, a former Penn researcher and co-founder of Integral Molecular, said the industry that sells antibodies for studying cell proteins often struggles with consistent quality.

Often, these antibodies are taken from mice or other animals used in research. There is no consistency, and frequently, researchers struggle with results and lose time when experiments fail because of inconsistent specimens.

“No scientist wants to waste their time in the lab,” he said. “You might be able to get a refund [for a bad antibody], but you’ll never get that month of your life back on an experiment that was destined to fail because of a bad antibody.”

Cell Surface Bio is sharing leadership, workers and office space with the 100-employee Integral Molecular inside uCity — a 13-story-tall science building near 38th and Powelton Avenue. The company’s website says that its antibodies were created after two decades of research, discovery and experimentation. The startup’s clients are expected to be scientific laboratories, whether inside of drug discovery companies or academic institutions.

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