Articles by Felicia Mejàre

GlyCLICK® and Middle-up LC-MS Enables Robust ADC Development

Scientists at the University of Geneva and CNRS present site-specific ADCs generated using the GlyCLICK technology and an analytical middle-up LC-HRMS workflow as a potential core module for ADC development.


Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are efficient therapeutic agents that possess the cell-targeting properties of monoclonal antibodies combined with the potency of cytotoxic drugs. Early generation ADCs were predominantly obtained through non-selective conjugation methods by incorporation of a drug payload at randomly distributed sites. Such methods result in highly heterogenous subpopulations of varying antibody-drug ratio (DAR) leading to potential loss of efficacy and impaired pharmacokinetics. While alternative strategies exploring genetic engineering have emerged for conjugation at non-natural amino acids, challenges related to both production and analytical characterization persist.


Glycan-mediated bioconjugation using the GlyCLICK technology is an attractive option to overcome the challenges of conventional bioconjugation without the need for genetic engineering to produce custom ADCs. By utilizing a unique combination of enzymes, the conserved Fc-glycans are remodeled and site-specifically conjugated using click chemistry for ADCs carrying two payloads per antibody (DAR=2.0) having controlled drug stoichiometry and preserved immunoreactivity. In this paper, Duivelshof et al. developed a site-specific ADC by coupling trastuzumab to DM1 using the GlyCLICK technology and evaluated the quality of the conjugation process using complementary reversed phase (RPLC) and hydrophilic interaction chromatography (HILIC) coupled to high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS).


The trastuzumab antibody was site-specifically conjugated to DBCO-functionalized DM1 (DBCO-PEG4-Ahx-DM1) using the GlyCLICK technology. To reduce sample complexity, the antibodies were digested with FabRICATOR® (Ides) or FabALACTICA® (IgdE) and reduced for comparison of native and GlyCLICK conjugated trastuzumab at the subunit level. The complementary HILIC and RPLC workflow allowed the authors to observe the significant shift in retention between the lipophilic drug payloads on the ADC and the hydrophilic N-glycans on native trastuzumab. These results enabled the scientists to confirm site-specific conjugation at the Fc-glycans sites, while hyphenation to HRMS detection allowed accurate determination of a DAR of 2.0 for GlyCLICK conjugated trastuzumab, which was not possible at the intact ADC level.


Duivelshof et al., 2020. Glycan-mediated technology for obtaining homogenous site-specific conjugated antibody-drug conjugates: synthesis and analytical characterization by using complementary middle-up LC/HRMS analysis. Analytical Chemistry. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c00282


Investigating IgG Delivery Across the Blood-Brain Barrier with GlycINATOR®

Scientists from the University of Delaware demonstrate the use of GlycINATOR for studying transcytosis of IgG in an in vitro model of the blood-brain barrier.

Brain endothelial cells (BECs) are important structural components of the blood-brain barrier with a unique physiology that restricts permeability of blood-borne molecules such as therapeutic antibodies to the brain. The neonatal fragment crystalline receptor (FcRn) is known to mediate IgG recycling and transcytosis in peripheral epithelium, but the role of FcRn in transcytosis of antibodies in BECs remains uncertain.

In this paper, Ruano-Salguero and Lee study the role of FcRn in transcytosis of IgG across the blood-brain barrier in BEC-like cells (iBECs) derived from induced human pluripotent stem cells. Using microscopy-based methods, different antibody species and subunits were compared to investigate the role of FcRn on transcytosis of IgG. To specifically determine the impact of Fc-glycosylation on permeability, all glycoforms on human IgG1 was removed using the GlycINATOR enzyme and the deglycosylated antibodies analyzed in iBECs using live-cell microscopy. Finally, the authors also investigated the impact of biophysical properties such as charge and size on transcytosis mechanisms.

Using the in vitro blood-brain barrier model, the scientists found that FcRn mediates both recycling and reduced lysosomal accumulation of IgG in iBECs. Transcytosis of antibodies across the in vitro blood-brain barrier exhibited non receptor-medicated mechanisms that were unaffected by human FcRn-binding motifs and Fc-glycoforms as demonstrated by the different species and deglycosylated human IgG1. Investigations of intracellular trafficking by FcRn binding or other IgG-specific mechanisms were further observed to be non-saturable, indicating fluid-phase permeability. Interestingly, the authors found that biophysical changes enhanced permeability of molecules with positively charged isoelectric points. These results highlight the potential for use of in vitro models as well as characterization and modification of biophysical properties to improve therapeutic delivery to the brain.

Deglycosylation of IgG using the GlycINATOR enzyme decreases binding to Fc-receptors (FcRs) enabling bifunctional assays to study glycan-mediated interactions such as ADCC activity. The binding to FcRn is however preserved with GlycINATOR, allowing recycling and increased circulation in vivo of deglycosylated IgG and GlyCLICK conjugated ADCs.


















Ruano-Salguero and Lee, 2020. Antibody transcytosis across brain endothelial-like cells occurs nonspecifically and independent of FcRn. Sci Rep 10, 3685.


FabRICATOR® presents F(ab’)2 PET-tracers for Prognostic Imaging

March 18, 2020 | References |

Scientists at Minerva Imaging demonstrate the use of FabRICATOR® to generate a 64Cu-labeled F(ab’)2 PET-tracer for the detection of changes in T Cell response to combined radiation and immunoblockade therapy.

Current immunotherapy response-evaluation criteria are limited in discriminating responsive patients eligible for immunotherapy from non-responders. Accurate evaluations of progression are limited by pseudo-progression, a phenomenon where therapy-induced inflammatory events temporarily increase tumor volume, thereby delaying evidence of response. Routine and standardized clinical evaluations are needed that require predictive biomarkers combined with reproducible methods for monitoring biomarker expression and dynamics.

Targeting T cells as essential players in the anti-tumor immune response, Kristensen et al. developed a 64Cu-labeled F(ab’)2 against murine CD8a+ T cells. The scientists further demonstrate its potential as a prognostic PET-imaging biomarker

for immunotherapy response in mouse models of colorectal cancer. Rat anti-mouse CD8a antibodies were digested using the FabRICATOR enzyme to generate homogenous F(ab’)2 and Fc/2 subunits. Purification by preparative HPLC yielded isolated F(ab’)2 subunits for random chelation with p-SCN-Bn-NOTA and radiolabeling using the 64Cu isotope. Treatment response assessment was conducted using in vivo PET-imaging of tumor-bearing mice subjected to combined radiation and anti-CTLA-4 therapy.

The scientists found that the tumor-to-heart ratio of the PET-tracer increased with combined therapy, this was also confirmed by flow cytometry and IHC analysis showing increased tumor infiltration by CD8+ T cells. The prognostic value of the PET-tracer was further demonstrated using in vivo imaging as the scientists were able to distinguish responsive mice from non-responders prior to treatment-induced variations in tumor volume.

Kristensen et al., 2020. Monitoring CD8+ T Cell Responses to Radiotherapy and CTLA-4 Blockade Using [64Cu]NOTA-CD8a PET imaging. Mol Imaging Biol (2020).


ADC Biotransformation Analysis using FabRICATOR and LC-MS

March 11, 2020 | References |

Current strategies for analyzing in vivo biotransformation of antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) are limited by the site of conjugation, extensive sample preparation and insufficient sensitivity. In this paper by Kotapati et al., the authors developed a universal affinity capture method for assessing the effects of biotransformation on any site-specific ADC using generic reagents and LC-HRMS analysis.


Antibody-Drug Conjugates (ADCs) can undergo in vivo biotransformation where the payload can be metabolized to an inactive species or be subjected to deconjugation releasing the payload into systemic circulation. Strategically selected conjugation sites can minimize proteolytic cleavage or steric hindrance of the surrounding mAb domains, ultimately improving the potency and stability in vivo. The process of screening for optimal conjugation sites is therefore an important part of ADC discovery and development.


ADCs prepared from various antibodies and payloads with site-specific conjugation sites at the LC, HC-Fab and HC-Fc were prepared and analyzed using a mono- or dual affinity capture method. Streptavidin magnetic beads coated with anti-human F(ab’)2 captured ADCs from mouse serum and were processed on a KingFisher Flex automated magnetic extraction instrument. The captured ADCs were then, according to conjugation site, either subjected to reduction, on-bead digestion with only the FabRICATOR enzyme or in combination with PNGaseF for complete Fc-deglycosylation. The samples were then either reduced or eluted directly for analysis using high resolution LC-TOF mass spectrometer.


With this method, the authors were able to successfully study biotransformation of site-specific ADCs independent of antibody type, conjugation type or linker-payload chemistry. Using the site-specific FabRICATOR enzyme, HC-Fab and HC-Fc ADCs were digested below the hinge into homogenous F(ab’)2 and Fc subunits for the generation of antibody fragments. Compared to intact ADC analysis, this middle-level approach increased the resolution and sensitivity for identification of the conjugated payload and its metabolites at exceptional sensitivity and resolution.


Kotapati et al., 2020. Universal Affinity Capture Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry Assay for Evaluation of Biotransformation of Site-Specific Antibody Drug Conjugates in Preclinical Studies. Analytical Chemistry (92). pp. 2065-2073. doi: 10.1021/acs.analchem.9b04572


GlyCLICK PET-tracers in Quantitative Imaging to Predict Immunotherapy Response

February 26, 2020 | References |

Scientists at Minerva Imaging demonstrate the potential of site-specific immuno-PET tracers as early identifiers of immune response activation using in vivo imaging. 


The programmed cell death protein (PD-1) on immune cells and its corresponding tumor-associated ligand (PD-L1) have emerged as effective targets for immunocheckpoint therapy. To date, the selection of patients eligible for PD-L1 blockade therapy and response rate monitoring is guided by immunohistochemistry of randomly sampled biopsies. This method is not only invasive and prone to errors, but also poorly reflects the heterogeneity and potential metastasis of the tumor.


Immunoimaging using PET-tracers is an attractive option to overcome these challenges since it provides a more comprehensive portrayal of the tumor and its temporal dynamics in vivo. In this study, Christensen et al. developed a site-specifically labeled immuno-PET tracer using a GlyCLICK-conjugated anti-PD-L1 antibody. The PET-tracer was used for quantitative detection of PD-L1 expression in order to non-invasively monitor radiotherapy-induced changes and demonstrate the predictive value of such tracers prior to PD-L1 blockade immunotherapy.


The anti-PD-L1 antibody was site-specifically conjugated with DIBO-functionalized DFO chelators using the GlyCLICK technology. Chelated conjugates were then radiolabeled with 89Zr to generate PET-tracers carrying two radioisotopes per antibody (DOL=2). Comparing conjugation strategies, the authors found that the GlyCLICK-conjugated antibodies displayed higher immuno-reactivity, stability and affinity compared to random conjugates. In vivo PET imaging and ex vivo biodistribution showed clear PD-L1-specificity of the GlyCLICK-tracers that allowed for the detection of different PD-L1 expression levels among mouse models of human and murine cancer. Importantly, the authors were also able to monitor therapy-induced changes of syngenetic mouse models in a combination study using XRT and anti-PD-L1 therapy. The tumor-to-muscle ratio of GlyCLICK-tracers enabled the scientists to obtain results predictive of response to PD-L1 immunocheckpoint inhibition.


Christensen et al., 2019. Quantitative PET imaging of PD-L1 expression in xenograft and syngeneic tumour models using a site-specifically labelled PD-L1 antibody. Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. doi: 10,1007/s00259-019-04646-4


Learn more about how GlyCLICK works by watching the GlyCLICK Movie.


Read more about GlyCLICK on the Product page or download our GlyCLICK Poster






Improved antibody-PET tracers for in vivo imaging with GlyCLICK®

Radioactively labelled antibodies are excellent immuno-PET tracers for evaluating in vivo distribution and performance of therapuetic agents. Site-specific conjugation at the antibody Fc glycan site by enzymatic remodeling allows for a uniform label distribution of such PET-tracers, compared to conjugates generated with conventional random labelling strategies.

In an article by Kristensen et al. (2019), the authors evaluated the stability, immunoreactivity and in vivo biodistribution of the radioactively labelled mAb Trastuzumab (Herceptin). Using GlyCLICK, the antibody was enzymatically modified with GlycINATOR (EndoS2) and conjugated with a DIBO-DFO chelator prior to 89Zr radioactive labelling. Comparing the GlyCLICK technology with ß-galactosidase remodelled conjugates and two random labelling techniques, the authors obtained valuable data on the overall performance of the various PET-tracers.

Antibodies subjected to site-specific labelling showed significantly increased in vitro stability and immunoreactivity compared to randomly labeled Trastzumab. Furthermore, using in vivo immuno-PET imaging, these conjugates also displayed superior tumor-targeting properties based on the successful detection of HER2-positive tumors in mouse models. These results highlight the advantages of site-specific antibody conjugation.
For more information on GlyCLICK please visit

Kristensen, L. et al., 2019. Site-specifically labeled 89Zr-DFO-trastuzumab improves immuno-reactivity and tumor uptake for immuno-PET in a subcutaneous HER2-positive xenograft mouse model. Theranostics, 9(15). pp.4409-4420.

SmartEnzymes™ in Multiplexed Middle-Down MS for targeted structure analysis



 In a recent article by Srzentic et al. (2018) the authors present a multiplexed middle-down MS workflow with improved performance for targeted protein structure analysis. Using GingisKHAN for antibody digestion, the authors analysed the F(ab) subunits of a therapeutic mAb. By implementing spectral and transient averaging of mass spectra across several LC-MS experiments, the authors revealed valuable information on chain pairing in the mAb.


To make the analysis, the therapeutic mAb trastuzumab was digested above the hinge using the GingisKHAN enzyme to generate intact F(ab) subunits. Intact myoglobin was subjected to analysis in a top-down MS approach to benchmark the workflow. The GingisKHAN-generated F(ab) subunits were then analysed using the middle-down MS workflow to compare the performance of data averaging approaches.


The results show the performances of spectral and transient averaging for tandem mass spectra as separate software tools for structural protein analysis. The transient averaging provided the most extensive sequence coverage for the F(ab) subunits, followed by spectral averaging. Furthermore, utilizing the multiplexed middle-down MS workflow for subunit analysis, the authors detected low-abundance branched product ions revealing valuable information about the light and heavy chain connectivity.


GingisKHAN® (Kgp enzyme) is a cysteine protease that digests human IgG1 at a specific site above the hinge region. The enzyme generates intact Fc and Fab subunits in 60 minutes.

Learn more about GingisKHAN

Srzentic et al., 2018. Multiplexed Middle-Down Mass Spectrometry Reveals Light and Heavy Chain Connectivity in a Monoclonal Antibody

Antibody Sequence Analysis using GingisKHAN® and FabRICATOR®

September 28, 2018 | Applications, References |

  In an article by Luca Fornelli & Kristina Srzentic et al. recently published in Analytical Chemistry the authors present a workflow for antibody sequence determination by combining top-down and middle-down LC/MS. The authors analyzed the therapeutic antibody rituximab in its intact and fragmented form, using FabRICATOR and GingisKHAN to generate antibody subunits. By combining the performance of multiple ion activation techniques and a new software tool with top-level and middle-level strategies, the authors achieved extensive sequence coverage and obtained valuable information on key quality attributes.

  Rituximab was fragmented using members of the SmartEnzymes™ family for the generation of various antibody subunits. GingisKHAN was used for generating intact Fc and Fab subunits by site-specific cleavage of IgG1 above the hinge region. In order to obtain antibody subunits Fc/2, Fd and LC the authors used FabRICATOR-digestion followed by reduction. The intact antibody and the antibody subunits were analyzed using reversed phase LC/MS coupled with three separate ion activation techniques, and analyzed using a new software tool for fragment ion deconvolution.

  The complementing features of the ion activation techniques provided high quality information for a low number of LC/MS experiments. The authors achieved sequence coverage equivalent to what is obtainable with bottom-up strategies. In addition, the authors were able to analyze quality attributes such as PTMs, chain pairing and intact antibody mass determination – properties otherwise lost after extended proteolysis. These results highlight the benefits of combining top-level and middle-level strategies for applications currently performed by bottom-level strategies.

GingisKHAN® (Kgp enzyme) is a cysteine protease that digests human IgG1 at a specific site above the hinge region. The enzyme generates intact Fc and Fab subunits in 60 minutes.

Learn more about GingisKHAN

Fornelli et. al., 2018. Accurate Sequence Analysis of a Monoclonal Antibody by Top-Down and Middle-Down Orbitrap Mass Spectrometry Applying Multiple Ion Activation Techniques.

FabRICATOR® in service for in-depth 2D-LC MS profiling of therapeutic mAbs


In an article by Stroll et al. (2018), the authors demonstrate a striking in-depth characterization of three therapeutic mAbs, achieved by combining FabRICATOR® (IdeS) digestion with an online two-dimensional LC-MS approach. The authors generate a highly resolved separation and detection of FabRICATOR-digested N-glycosylated mAb subunits by implementing Active Solvent Modulation (ASM), a method for valve-based effluent dilution between the first and second dimension separations.

Multidimensional Liquid Chromatography constitutes a powerful technology for in-depth profiling of therapeutic proteins, capable of generating rapid and highly resolved separations. The authors demonstrate the advantages of implementing ASM in an online 2D-LC system for deep profiling of antibody glycosylations, subjecting mAbs to FabRICATOR digestion followed by HILIC x RP separation and ESI Mass Spectrometry (ESI-MS) detection.

Three therapeutic antibodies displaying diverse N-glycosylation patterns were submitted to digestion using FabRICATOR for a single site-specific proteolytic cleavage below the hinge, generating Fc/2 and F(ab’)2 fragments. Further reduction of the interchain disulphide bonds of the F(ab’)2 subunit was carried out on the FabRICATOR-digested samples for the additional generation of LC and Fd fragments.

Implementing the ASM method on antibody subunits, the authors achieved a significant increase in detection sensitivity for Fc/2 and Fd fragments, without detectable breakthrough, otherwise associated with larger loading volumes in the second-dimension separation. Furthermore, the authors demonstrated the resolving power of HILIC x RP for analyzing the extent of glycosylations present in heavily glycosylated mAbs, the method showing increased separation and detection for both high and low abundant glycan species, compared to 2D-LC combining CEX and RP separations.

FabRICATOR is a protease with a single digestion site below the hinge of IgG. The enzyme is widely used in middle-level analytical workflows for characterization of antibody based biopharmaceuticals.

Learn more about FabRICATOR

Stoll, D.R. et al., 2018. Development of Comprehensive Online Two-Dimensional Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry using Hydrophilic Interaction and Reversed-Phase Separations for Rapid and Deep Profiling of Therapeutic Antibodies. Analytical Chemistry, pp.acs.analchem.8b00776–9.