Say the word "antibody" and what comes to mind are words like "antagonist" and "blocker." But Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. reports that it has created what the company believes is the first designed antibody agonist, using a technique that could be generally applicable to the design of other antibody-based receptor agonists.

Many membrane receptors become activated when they dimerize. Examples of some of these clinically important receptors include tyrosine kinases, estrogen receptor-alpha and the erythropoietin receptor. Thus finding proteins or small molecules that cause receptors to dimerize and become activated would have broad applications.