A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Iontas's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Iontas is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

CEO and Founder
Crystal structure of an
Over the last 30 years, human antibodies have emerged
as a new class of drugs, with over 70 products approved
to treat a range of conditions including cancer and
autoimmune disease. This upsurge has been driven by a
revolution in antibody discovery technologies. John McCafferty,
inventor of one of the critical technologies, phage display,
describes this journey and the road that led to the founding
of his latest company IONTAS, an innovative biotechnology
company which combines drug discovery services alongside
development of advanced technologies to further facilitate the
development of new medicines.
A golden age of antibody drug discovery
In 1988 there was a single approved antibody drug derived from immunised mice;
there was also a realisation within the industry that mouse antibodies were not
the way ahead and that antibodies of human origin were required. In 1990, as
a founder of Cambridge Antibody Technology (CAT), now part of AstraZeneca,
I began work in Greg Winter’s lab at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
in Cambridge and developed antibody phage display technology for the first
time. Using phage display it becomes possible to create very large populations of
antibody genes coupled directly to the antibodies they encode – for example our
IONTAS “antibody library” consists of 40 billion members. Through a relatively
simple “biopanning” process we showed it was possible to select antibody genes
to any target from these massive libraries on the basis of the binding properties of
»CEO and Founder:
»Founded in 2012
»Based in Cambridge
»Services: Antibody drug
»No. of employees: 32
Highlighting best practice
the encoded antibody. The isolated
antibody gene then effectively provides
the “recipe” to produce the antibody
drug molecule at scale.
This UK invention has been adopted
worldwide by most biotech and
pharmaceutical companies involved in
antibody discovery and development,
including the top 20 pharmaceutical
companies worldwide. There are
now 11 approved antibodies from
phage including Humira, the world’s
best-selling drug, with many more in
clinical and pre-clinical development.
The importance of phage display was
recognised this year by the award of
the 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry to
my co-inventor Greg Winter.
My experience as a founder of CAT
inspired me ten years later to form
IONTAS. Having returned to academia,
I recognised that many of the initial
commercial players had been absorbed
into bigger companies and were
focused on internal drug development.
I could also see there was still a big
demand for human therapeutic
antibodies, with an opportunity for
myself and the team around me at the
University of Cambridge Biochemistry
Department to fill that niche.
The green shoots of growth
I founded IONTAS in 2012 and
built a team who are experts in the
discovery and optimisation of fully
human antibodies. Matching the
capability in the lab, IONTAS have
incorporated a senior management
team with expertise in business
development, operations, finance
and intellectual property, providing
a robust management platform with
the ability to manage present and
future challenges. IONTAS offers
antibody discovery services to client
companies wishing to develop human
We enjoy a 100 per cent record of
success in delivering on project plans,
giving confidence to partners that
their project goals will be achieved.
We de-risk projects for them. The
company’s expertise together with
strong commercial acumen and
an enviable record of success has
made us a profitable biotechnology
company and enabled me, through
boot-strapping, to build the company
without recourse to external funding.
Our efforts were recently recognised
when we received the 2019
Cambridge News Small Business of the
Year award.
Over the last 12 months, we have
expanded through Europe, the USA
and into the Far East, with almost
half the projects partnered with
overseas clients. We have always
recognised the importance of excellent
science combined with strong project
leadership to deliver a reputation-
enhancing service. Market strength
has been built and maintained
through both high-quality service
and investment in cutting-edge
technology to continually enhance
the offering. Business has grown via
a combination of returning clients,
word-of-mouth recommendations and
IONTAS have set up
offices and labs in
Cambridge, UK
This UK
invention has
been adopted
by the top 20
Looking to the future
In anticipation of increasing
competition, 40 per cent of our income
has been reinvested from the start to
fund innovative research programmes
that address key gaps in the antibody
drug discovery process. Building on
our pedigree of innovation, IONTAS
continues to develop groundbreaking
technologies that provide a runway
for continued growth. In particular,
we have developed a platform for
constructing collections of millions
of antibody-expressing mammalian
cells. This patented mammalian
display platform makes antibody drug
discovery more efficient and allows
the discovery of antibodies that are
amenable to manufacturing. This
ultimately reduces cost, time and
risk in drug development, enabling
therapeutics to reach the hands of
doctors in a timely manner. Thus, we
have sown the seeds of our future
growth in an increasingly competitive
market by creating and licensing high-
end technical solutions for antibody
drug discovery.
We have also invented a novel
antibody format (the KnotBody
format), which facilitates the
generation of drug leads to a class
of target (ion channels) previously
considered intractable to antibody
development. The KnotBody format
combines the ion channel modulating
functionality of naturally occurring
venom-derived small peptides with the
specificity and in vivocapabilities of
human antibodies.We are developing
our own drug leads based on this
proprietary KnotBody technology
and are looking to add value through
licensing our KnotBody assets to
partner companies.
IONTAS represents a rare breed of
biotechnology company by being
profitable while engaging in innovative
technology development and in-house
drug discovery. IONTAS benefits from
a highly qualified and motivated staff.
I believe company culture comes from
the top and IONTAS enjoys low staff
turnover thanks to a fun, innovative
environment and a positive approach
to staff and their development.
Through technological development
and the services we provide, IONTAS
will continue the UK’s contribution to
the development of novel drugs that
target unmet medical needs.
Building on our
pedigree of
continues to
that provide a
runway for
Advancing projects by
group discussion

This article was sponsored by Iontas. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster