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Towards the use of IgY antibodies as alternative therapeutics

Project description

Innovative platform simplifies the way hens help us fight disease

Immunoglobulins (or antibodies) are molecules produced by our white blood cells; the immunoglobins recognise 'invaders' and aid in their destruction. Humans make five different classes, one of which is similar in function to IgY, an unusual antibody made by chickens. The circulating IgY accumulates in the yolk of chicken eggs. This is convenient because scientists can immunise chickens against a variety of pathogens, including those that infect humans, and then purify the IgY antibodies from egg yolk, without tackling the complex production of human-derived monoclonal antibodies. Now, the EU-funded PureIgY project is developing a simpler and less expensive method to isolate IgY that will also enhance yield significantly. The team is focused on utilising the innovative platform to speedily develop therapies for antimicrobial-resistant pathogens.


The increased occurrence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens is a critical concern corresponding to economic and societal challenges of high priority. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is responsible for 33,000 deaths per year, while bringing €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses to the EU. Current solutions (biopharmaceuticals) are highly expensive and very few tackle the AMR scenario. Therefore, new approaches to tackling AMR focusing on low cost and relatively low time-to-market therapeutics must be pursued. Immunoglobulin Y (IgY) present in hen’s egg yolk is a potential alternative to the previously described biotherapeutics, and can be obtained in higher amounts from a renewable and non-invasive matrix. However, given the complex nature of egg yolk, the current purification technologies are multi-step and mainly based on chromatography, being highly expensive and leading to low yields. In the ERC Starting Grant (IgYPurTech) I proposed the use of aqueous biphasic systems (ABS) as IgY separation/purification platforms (from commercial and non-hyperimmune eggs since no therapeutic action was defined in the proposal). Although promising results have been obtained with ABS, during the IgYPurTech framework an additional and more cost-effective process to purify IgY was developed. It is not based on the selective extraction of antibodies for one of the phases in ABS, but on two steps of induced precipitation with appropriate salts and biopolymers. This innovative purification platform enables to produce high-quality IgY in higher amounts and at a significantly lower cost than other currently commercialized biotherapeutics. In this PoC Action – PureIgY – it is aimed to scale-up the developed purification technology, to address the biological features of specific IgY to tackle the AMR critical scenario, to work on the business plan development and business development, and to create an early-stage drug development start-up.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 150 000,00
3810-193 Aveiro

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Continente Centro (PT) Região de Aveiro
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (1)