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“More than a network, we are a family”

Here, Giovanna Roncador learns how teamwork and the greater life sciences community have been central to creating monoclonal antibodies for cancer research.
Giovanna Roncador, Ph.D.

Head of Monoclonal Antibodies Unit at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), and Founder, EuroMAbNet

Giovanna Roncador still remembers the day she fell in love with science at 8 years old. She was growing up in a small village in northern Italy, and her science teacher explained to the class how the human ear is able to hear sounds and words.

“I was completely fascinated by the way nature created such wonderful machinery,” Roncador recalls. “Since then, I knew that I would become a biologist.”

While she was earning a doctoral degree in biology, Roncador became enthralled with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), which are laboratory-produced antibodies that can be engineered to mimic the body’s immune system. Now, she leads the Monoclonal Antibodies Unit at Spain’s National Cancer Research Center (CNIO), where she and a team of scientists produce mAbs and research ways to use them to prevent and treat cancer. Roncador’s unit has engineered more than 170 mAbs that are used for cancer research, including as tools to identify certain types of blood cancers so that patients can receive more targeted treatments.

“Collaboration with researchers and industry can help save resources and improve productivity, speeding the advance of science”

Giovanna Roncador, Ph.D.

Partnerships with other scientists and teams are a central part of Roncador’s scientific work. For example, she and her team have joined forces with other laboratories to produce mAbs that can identify a key protein that regulates T cells, a type of white blood cell that plays a central role in the immune system, and which have been licensed commercially for potential cancer treatments. In another group effort, Roncador’s team paired with another group at CNIO to use mAbs to identify subtypes of blood cancers through their expression of molecular markers on white blood cells, so that targeted treatments can be developed.

“Collaboration is the basis of our work”

Giovanna Roncador, Ph.D.

“Collaboration is the basis of our work”

Giovanna Roncador, Ph.D.
25 labs
The EuroMAbNet network is 25 labs spanning 13 countries
170 mAbs
More than 170 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) used in cancer research have been generated by CNIO’s Monoclonal Antibodies Unit

Since 2004, Roncador’s unit has licensed over 60 mAbs to private companies. “We have worked and shared our common goal of providing the scientific community with reliable and well-validated antibodies that give value to their research.” She continues: “abcam stands out as one of our favorite licensing partners, and our most long-lasting collaboration to date.”

In the vein of collaboration, Roncador was inspired to network with other European labs that specialize in mAbs so that they could share knowledge and experience. In 2000, she created EuroMAbNet, an organization of 25 labs spanning 13 countries through which its members can share ideas and resources and keep up to date on new developments in their field. Though each lab may specialize in different techniques related to antibody production, together they create common strategies to improve and standardize the production of mAbs.

“I strongly believe that collaboration with researchers and industry can help save resources and improve productivity, speeding the advance of science,” says Roncador.

“More than a network, we are a family,” she adds. “This environment is also extremely important for young scientists who are just getting started in their careers in antibody technology, as it allows them to learn from more experienced researchers and grow their skills in this area.”

[Teamwork tactic]

Giovanna Roncador drew inspiration from a colleague who met with members of other labs specializing in monoclonal antibodies. Realizing that she didn’t want to work in a silo, Roncador created a European network of laboratories working with antibody technology that would cooperate, allowing all members to benefit from shared knowledge and experience.

Far from working in silos to advance their research, these scientists have discovered that joining forces with others in their fields and beyond can expand the boundaries of what’s possible.