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ProTAG – a new protein engineering technology for research, therapy and diagnosis

Prof. Edward Lemke, European Molecular Biology Laboratory; Dr Carsten Schultz, European Molecular Biology Laboratory; Dr Tilman Plass, European Molecular Biology Laboratory; Christine Koehler, European Molecular Biology Laboratory

EMBLEM Technology Transfer GmbH


Many of the currently existing protein labelling methods (e.g. for research) suffer from drawbacks regarding size or placement of modification, ease of usability, tag exchangeability, or general scope. Many diseases have no potent cure and/or diagnostics – antibodies could help but often require advanced engineering which cannot be achieved by current technological means.


Scientists at the EMBL have developed a method for the incorporation of unnatural amino acids (UAAs) into proteins and subsequent click chemistry labelling. The strengths of the technology lies in site-specificity, speed/robustness/completeness of coupling, the versatility and modularity of the platform, easy applicability, as well as the free choice of the placement of the modification. Selected modes of applications are administering pre-labeled proteins or antibodies to cells or patients, in vivo protein labelling in cells or animals, antibody accumulation followed by in vivo labelling in cells or patients, and drug release.

Commercial Opportunity

We offer a ready-to-use toolbox of UAAs, tags, expression system plasmids, control proteins and protocols in various fields: research (protein labelling kits for studying proteins), therapy (antibody-drug and antibody-radionuclid conjugates), diagnosis (antibody-based nuclear imaging diagnostics) and other options such as tissue staining for surgery, protein coating of surfaces…

Development Status

Academic proof of concept by successful production of an ADC in the field of cancer therapy using ProTAG which showed higher cytotoxicity than the native antibody.

Patent Situation

EP2670767 (granted 2017), three other patent applications pending and further patent applications in preparation.

Further Reading



ProTAG – a new protein engineering technology for research, therapy and diagnosis