Ulrich Brinkmann and Roland E. Kontermann
Bispecific antibodies (bsAbs) bind two different epitopes on the same or different antigens. Through this dual specificity for soluble or cell-surface antigens, bsAbs exert activities beyond those of natural antibodies, offering numerous opportunities for therapeutic applications. Although initially developed for retargeting T cells to tumors, with a first bsAb approved in 2009 (catumaxomab, withdrawn in 2017), exploring new modes of action opened the door to many additional applications beyond those of simply combining the activity of two different antibodies within one molecule. Examples include agonistic “assembly activities” that mimic the activity of natural ligands and cofactors (for example, factor VIII replacement in hemophilia A), inactivation of receptors or ligands, and delivery of payloads to cells or tissues or across biological barriers. Over the past years, the bsAb field transformed from early research to clinical applications and drugs. New developments offer a glimpse into the future promise of this exciting and rapidly progressing field.