• Max Hebditch

Student thesis: Phd


Antibodies and antibody fragments are the largest class of biotherapeutics in development with many products already available in the clinic. Antibodies are promising due to their naturally high affinity and specificity for biological targets. A key stumbling block to biopharmaceutical development compared to small molecule drugs is the general requirement for a stable liquid formulation, which is often difficult to obtain due to issues with aggregation, phase separation, particle formation, and chemical instabilities. Aberrant solution behaviour limits the production, storage and delivery of the monoclonal antibody. Biopharmaceutical solution behaviour is determined by weak, transient protein-protein and protein-solvent interactions. An attractive interaction potential between proteins in solution can lead to association. Irreversible association occurs when proteins undergo large scale structural changes and aggregate. Reversible association is less severe, but can lead to undesirable solution properties such as high viscosity, phase separation and opalescence, which can lead to difficulties throughout the downstream processing and formulation steps. These problems can become exacerbated during formulation of antibodies when trying to achieve high protein concentrations often required for effective antibody dosage. Firstly, we studied the domains of the Fab fragment using statistical models and continuum electrostatic calculations and found that the CH1 domain is more soluble than the other domains and has properties of intrinsically disordered like proteins which is supported by observations in the literature. We then investigated the immunoglobulin superfamily and found 11 proteins which may have a similarly disordered nature. We present a new web server for predicting protein solubility from primary sequence using an in-house algorithm that weighs the contribution of various sequence properties for predicting solubility. Lastly, we conducted physical characterisation of an antibody and human serum albumin in pharmaceutically relevant buffers and found that the interaction potential can be modelled using spherical models from low to high protein concentration. We hope that the work outlined in this thesis will contribute to the theoretical understanding and modelling of protein solution behaviour.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRobin Curtis (Supervisor) & James Warwicker (Supervisor)


  • light scattering
  • biopharmaceuticals
  • antibody
  • weak forces
  • protein protein interactions
  • electrostatics
  • computational modelling

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