How to Choose an Antibody CRO



The availability of custom antibodies has been steadily increasing year-over-year and now recombinant antibody technology is accessible to a variety of industries. With their batch-to-batch consistency, biological definition, and ability to be customized, recombinant antibodies provide substantial flexibility that polyclonal and hybridoma-derived monoclonals cannot. From academic researchers to pharmaceutical developers, the benefits of custom recombinant antibodies continue to be realized.

With any technology that becomes mainstream, there are a number of CROs (contract research organizations) popping up to offer custom antibody services. A quick google search for “custom antibody services” populates an overwhelming number of results, and it can seem like a daunting task to research and narrow down your options. Starting the process without a clear idea of what you are looking for can lead to confusion, unnecessary stress, and a waste of time. To help alleviate some of that stress, we have put together a short how-to guide for selecting an antibody CRO. This guide will walk you through six steps and will describe what to look for in a custom antibody service provider.

1. Define your antibody needs

Before you jump into researching antibody CROs, it is crucial to clearly outline your objectives and goals for the project. A few things to consider are:

  • Where are you starting? Recombinant antibodies begin with a sequence. Do you have the antibody sequence? If not, do you have the hybridoma or antibody protein? Sequences can be derived from hybridomas, as well as monoclonal and polyclonal antibody protein. Knowing your starting material is important because not every CRO specializes in sequencing monoclonal and polyclonal antibody protein.
  • What is the desired end product? Are you happy with the current performance of your antibody, but want to produce it recombinantly to ensure consistency? Or do you want to explore engineering options, such as bispecifics, humanization, and fragments? Clearly identifying what end product you want will help narrow down potential CROs.
  • Do you need consultation? For many researchers, recombinant antibody engineering is beyond their scope of expertise. For example, you may know that you want to create a bispecific antibody, but are unsure which constructs are the best go-to formats. Consider how much advising and personal consultation you may need for your project and look for companies that can provide that expertise.

Take a look at the 9 Questions to Consider Before Your Next Antibody Engineering Project white paper for more ideas. Using these topics as a starting point, put together a list of wants and needs for your antibody project. By planning out the scope, you will be better equipped to select an antibody CRO.

2. Research potential CROs

Once you understand what you need from a CRO, it is time to begin the hunt. Search for companies and phrases that match the scope of your project, for example: “bispecific antibody engineering” or “antibody sequencing without hybridoma.” Reach out to colleagues and ask which companies they have worked with and would recommend. You can even utilize social media (such as LinkedIn) to ask connections for recommendations. Once you have a list of companies, the next step is to evaluate their technology and throughput.

3. Evaluate technology and throughput capabilities

Remember the list of wants and needs you compiled in step 1? Now it is time to compare it to the capabilities of the antibody CROs you’ve identified. If you have a catalog of hybridomas that you want sequenced and expressed, you will want to partner with a company that has high-throughput capabilities. Or maybe you are a diagnostic developer that is looking to engineer antibody fragments. You’ll want to make sure the CRO has an expression platform optimized to produce such reagents at the necessary scale. Now that you have narrowed down your list of antibody CROs, it is time to determine if they have the expertise needed to meet your needs.

4. Assess expertise and experience

It can be hard to tell from a website whether an antibody CRO has the know-how needed to successfully complete your project. When choosing a company to work with, it is important to review their work and determine if it coincides with your needs. A good place to start is their published resources. Does the company showcase their expertise in posters, white papers, and publications? Does the data and content match up with your needs? It is important to look critically at the content and determine if it has strong scientific backing.

Another place to look is at journal citations. Has the CRO been cited in research papers, and do they provide a list on their website? When reviewing citations, pay close attention to how they are being cited. Did the company provide a catalog antibody, or did they provide a complex service such as antibody humanization or Fc engineering? Assessing the capabilities of potential CROs should help narrow down your list. At this point, it is time to start contacting companies to discuss your upcoming project and to gauge their communication and project management style.

5. Gauge communication and project management styles

The initial communication with a company sets the pace for how the process of working with them will go. Submitting multiple requests for information with no response can be a good indicator that timely correspondence is not high on their priority list. When communicating with a sales representative, do they take the time to ask questions in order to learn about your project and assess your needs? Do they loop in scientific and project management team members to consult and provide guidance? During initial conversations it is important to ask who your main contact during the project will be, how often you can expect to receive project updates, and who you can contact if you have questions. Understanding who is managing the project and how often they will communicate with you is crucial to a streamlined process. Setting communication expectations up front can save time, and headaches, down the road.

6. Determine timeline and final product details

When are you looking to start your project, and when do you need it completed? When communicating with the sales representative, it is important to have a clear understanding of estimated timelines for project completion. The amount of time needed to complete a project can vary greatly depending on which services are needed. It is important to ask for an estimated timeline, but just as important to ask when the project will be started. Keep in mind that the estimated time to completion can change depending on the complexity of the project. It is important to have a realistic expectation of the process and the flexibility to adjust to unforeseen circumstances.

What quality control parameters were included in your list of necessities? For many researchers, there are minimum purity percentages and maximum endotoxin levels that will be accepted for a given product. Review purification, QC procedures, and final details with your sales representative to ensure they can provide you with the product you need. Antibody quality will differ between CROs, so it is crucial to confirm that the final product will meet your specifications.


Not every antibody CRO was created equal, and each has their strengths and weaknesses. Evaluating those strengths and weaknesses is less daunting when you have a strategy in place and know your desired end product. We hope this list will guide you and give you the tools you need to assess a CRO’s capabilities and how well they fit with your project.

For more information about Absolute Antibody and our custom recombinant antibody services, click here or contact us.