November 1, 2013 (Vol. 33, No. 19)
CST Employees Say They Know What Scientists Want Because They Also Work at the Bench
Cell Signaling Technology (CST) boasts an impressive array of products, while at its core it remains an antibody company. Developed by scientists who are themselves active researchers, CST faces many of the same challenges as its researcher clients. Therefore, CST scientists use their bench experience to develop the products they, themselves want: specific and robust antibody products that maintain lot-to-lot consistency.
“Approximately 97% of our primary antibodies are developed in-house, and all of our primary antibodies are manufactured and validated in-house,” Craig Thompson, Ph.D., vp development and production, emphasizes. “Therefore, when we recommend an antibody to a client, we have done the appropriate work to ensure it delivers the right levels of specificity and sensitivity—and we stand behind it. We put a lot of work into development and validation. We’re not just a catalog company.”
“We believe there’s a continuing need for better research-use antibodies, so we will continue to focus on developing and manufacturing them,” Dr. Thompson continues. This includes assay kits, ELISA and conjugated antibodies, as well as a growing number of companion products, such as secondary antibodies and buffers.
In August, CST introduced a highly specific rabbit monoclonal antibody for researchers studying Her2-mediated breast, lung, and ovarian tumors. In some cancers, Her3 may be required for Her2 to transform normal cells and may allow some tumor cells to escape inhibition. In July, CST was issued a patent for a method to inhibit the progression of lung cancers expressing the EML4-ALK fusion gene, which is an alteration of the normal anaplastic lymphoma kinase gene. It may be critical to the growth of some non-small-cell lung cancers
CST plans to be able to produce cGMP-compliant monoclonal antibody products by the second quarter of 2014. This will give the company the capability to develop products for clinical applications and thereby expand into the diagnostic and therapeutic space. The company is also offering proteomics-profiling services, born of its own research efforts using mass spectrometry.
New England Biolabs Descendant
The science-based culture that permeated CST in its early days as a lab within New England Biolabs (NEB), before its independent corporate formation in 1999, remains a guiding force for the company. “Research is a big part of our culture. In addition to antibody research, we have invested tremendously in our own basic research programs,” Dr. Thompson says.
Some projects are geared to monoclonal technology for commercial applications, but many other projects are focused on basic research—to understand the drivers for cancer, for example. The company has also developed technologies in mass spectrometry that helped it identify a large number of protein phosphorylation, methylation, and acetylation sites, as well as other previously unidentified cellular modifications. To curate these post-translational protein modifications, and those from other researchers, CST built and maintains the publically accessible PhosphoSitePlus® bioinformatics resource.
This focus on scientific research “…keeps us very closely in touch with the scientific community. We know firsthand what’s important to scientists because we deal with the same challenges as our customers,” Dr. Thompson points out. CST also collaborates with many of its customers to develop new antibodies. “This approach enables us to gain insights into the needs of the field, develop better antibodies, and get a jump on the competition, and provides our collaborators with access to antibodies before commercialization.”
“We aim to ensure that our customers can use our antibodies and have the support necessary to achieve the best results,” Dr. Thompson says. “Technical support is provided by scientists who have worked with the products firsthand, in testing and manufacturing. It’s not a phone bank.”
While this approach is good for the company, “Ultimately, we take this approach because it’s what we want to do,” Dr. Thompson says. Because CST is privately held and family owned, it is freed from many of the constraints faced by public companies. Instead, “Our founder and CEO Michael Comb, Ph.D., can run the company in a way that sustainably serves our customers, employees, scientists, and the local community for the long term.”
One of the ways CST does this is through the active participation of its scientists in publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals and lecturing at conferences.
The commitment to engage in research that advances broad scientific knowledge is a clear continuation of the NEB philosophy of giving something back to the community. That’s not accidental. When CST was just a lab within NEB, it focused on developing phospho-specific antibodies. “We were one of the first to develop and commercialize an antibody that recognizes a post-translationally modified protein, and we remain one of the premier antibody companies for this area,” Dr. Thompson says.
Cell Signaling Technology
Location: 3 Trask Lane, Danvers, MA 01923
Phone: (978) 867-2300
Principal: Michael J. Comb, Ph.D., CEO and Chairman
Number of Employees: 480
Focus: CST focuses on the development of antibody platforms, proteomics discovery platforms, and mechanistic cancer research. It has a strong commitment to internal basic and product-related research.