Tens of thousands of animals are used each year to produce secondary antibodies for medical purposes, e.g. for preganancy tests or blood group typing, and for research, e.g. immunohistochemistry, by immunization and purification of antibodies from serum. Nanobodies are fragments of mini-antibodies from Alpakas. They are selected by phage display and then expressed and multiplied in bacteria. After a single immunization of an Alpaka with purified antigen and drawing a small amount of blood for purification two months later, the Alpaka can return to the herd while further steps are performed in the laboratory. One Alpaka can also be used for different nanobody projects. The nanobodiesare about one fifth the size of traditional secondary antibodies. Thus cellular structures can be more clearly defined microscopically when marked with fluorescently labeled nanobodies and the production of vast amounts of nanobodies is highly efficient.
The annual prize of €25,000 is awarded for research that reduces or replaces animal experiments.