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International Congress of Antibodies: Winning the Race for Antibody R & D

The three objectives of Andrew Geering's travel were to learn about new antibody technologies by attending the BIT 4th Annual International Congress of Antibodies-2012, to investigate collaborative research opportunities with Chinese scientists, and to visit the Beijing Genome Institute Headquarters at Shenzen near Hong Kong. Unfortunately, only three days before Andrew was to depart Australia, his contact at the Beijing Genome Institute (BGI) suddenly cancelled the planned visit as she had neglected the fact in previous discussions that the Institute was closed for three days for ‘Tomb sweeping ceremonies’. As flights and hotel accommodation had already been reserved and paid for, and because of the very late notice, it was difficult to cancel the stopover in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the remaining objectives of the travel were successfully achieved.

Highlights of the conference were:

  1. Talks by Drs Seth Blackshaw and Guozhen Liu, who although working on two different types of organism (humans and rice, respectively), have a common goal to produce monoclonal antibodies against every protein produced by their subject organism. To achieve this monumental task, high throughput protein expression and monoclonal production facilities have been set up. Interestingly, for both studies, yeast was the chosen in vitro protein expression system and using this system, a broad diversity of proteins were successfully expressed in soluble form (c. 95% success rate). Protein solubility has been a serious limiting factor to our research using E. coli as the expression system.
  2. A talk by Dr Yan Chen (X-body Sciences) on a novel method of displaying scFvs on double-stranded (ds) DNA molecules instead of bacteriophages. Enrichment of scFvs during biopanning can then be analysed by 454 sequencing of the dsDNA molecule tags.
  3. There were many trade displays from Chinese biotechnology providers offering a multitude of services and products. Many research needs can now be outsourced and the work done more cost and time-effectively by others. For example, many competing Chinese companies were offering next generation sequencing services (e.g. the Beijing Genome Institute, the South China Genome Center, the North China Genome Center, Bioyong Technologies (contact and Novogene (contact There were several companies offering protein expression and antibody production services (e.g. Sino Biological Inc., Beijing Protein Innovation Co., Ltd ( and GenScript. Also of interest was a company called LightArray ( who have a novel protein detection system called ‘SearchLight Plus CCD Imaging & Analysis System’. SearchLight resembles an ELISA but detection is enabled using fluorescently labelled antibody conjugates. As different antibodies can be labelled with different fluorophores, it is possible to do 16 simultaneous detection assays.
  4. Andrew presented the research findings of project CRC60107 in a lecture on day two of the conference.

For the remaining two days of the stay in Beijing, Andrew visited scientists in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The first visit was to the Institute of Microbiological Sciences (IMS) where he met with Professor Cai Lei and members of his research group. Professor Cai heads a fungal evolution and systematics group. Professor Cai gave Andrew a tour around the Plant Disease Herbarium and also introduced him to Dr Xinyu Zhang, who is the bioinformatician for the fungal genomics group in the IMS. Dr Zhang has developed an ‘in house’ software pipeline for compiling and annotating fungal genomes.

After the IMS, Andrew visited the Beijing Institute of Genomics (BIG), not to be confused with the BGI. BIG and BGI were one and the same a few years ago but the BGI split off as a private company while BIG remained a public entity. At the BIG, Andrew met Dr Zhang Zhang (, a Professor in the “100-Talent” Program. Dr Zhang is a bioinformatician and a computer scientist and works on a diversity of projects including analysing the rice genome. The BIG has a surplus of next generation sequencing capacity, which could be used in the event of collaborative projects being developed between the BIG and the CRCNPB. Within the lifetime of the CRCNPB, whole genome shotgun sequencing will become routine for pathogen or pest identification, classification and diagnostic assay development.


When: Macrh - April 2012

Andrew Geering attended the International Congress of Antibodies: Winning the Race for Antibody R & D.