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Protein Development and Production Unit: Research Products

The IBGRL was set up in 1946 to centralise production of blood grouping reagents and provide a reference centre for the newly formed National Blood Transfusion Service. Until 1984, all blood grouping reagents were prepared by selecting, absorbing and pooling human sera of blood donors. In 1982 a monoclonal antibody development laboratory was set up at IBGRL. The laboratory also financed the development of human monoclonal anti-D at Babraham, Cambridge and UKTS, Bristol. At this time the Immunochemistry Section of the SW Regional Transfusion Centre (SWRTC) was exploring the development of monoclonal antibodies to blood group active structures on red cells. The Immunochemistry department joined IBGRL and the SWRTC was renamed the National Blood Service (NBS) Midlands and South West Zone, Bristol Centre.

In 1986 the activities of IBGRL were split. The production of major blood group reagents was undertaken by the BioProducts Laboratory at Elstree (BPL (D)). Reference, research and development work remained at IBGRL. In 1988 a program of reagent development was undertaken by IBGRL, BPL (D) and SWRTC to produce a range of major blood grouping reagents based on selected monoclonal cells lines developed by SWRTC. These reagents were successfully launched by BPL (D) in April 1990. BPL stopped production of blood grouping reagents in 1996. These cell lines were licensed to commercial companies who were then known as Bioscot and Excel Biotech.

Many other monoclonal cell lines were produced by the SWRTC and IBGRL (internal/external funded R&D). These antibodies were not exploited and marketed by BPL (D), as they did not have potential as major blood grouping reagents. During further characterisation/studies, the activities of a range of the antibodies were studied at various International Workshops. As a result of the successful participation and performance of some of the antibodies, many requests were received from research workers for their supply. Most requests were fulfilled, but at IBGRL’s expense. In 1990, the cost factor, together with a lack of a controlled quality and standardisation led IBGRL to undertake an extensive program of developing these popular cell lines for routine production and supply of antibody to research workers. Some of these ‘non-blood grouping’ cell lines have been licensed by various commercial companies e.g. Dako and Stem Cell Technologies.

Since April 1991, the International Blood Group Reference Laboratory (IBGRL) has had a range of monoclonal antibodies for immunohaematological research marketed under the name "IBGRL Research Products". The antibodies cover a range of specificities of interest to researchers in the fields of immunology, haematology, cell biology and biochemistry. The introduction of these products marked a divergence from the laboratory's original role of supplying reagents solely for blood group serology.

Over the years, the monoclonal antibodies have been developed and grown at IBGRL by the Protein Development and Production Unit (PDPU) and production team.