I'm translating a text that describes how an immunogenicity of a drug is measured by assaying the levels of binding antibodies to the drug. Or is it "against the drug"? I'm wondering how to name these antibodies. Let's say the drug is cetuximab, and I'm writing the title of a document section:

  1. Assay of binding antibodies against cetuximab in serum.
  2. Assay of binding antibodies to cetuximab in serum.
  3. Assay of anti-cetuximab binding antibodies in serum.

I googled for "binding antibodies to" and "binding antibodies against" and got only several dozen results for each of the two options. Therefore I came up with "anti-[name of the antigen] binding antibodies", but don't know how to google for it, hence my question here. Would option 3 look nice to a native speaker?

P.S. Alas, it is exactly "binding antibodies to" in my Russian text. I cannot omit the adjective "binding" before "antibodies"..

Связывающие антитела к цетуксимабу.

I quote from the Wikipedia page on neutralizing antibodies:

Most antibodies work by binding to an antigen, signaling to a white blood cell that this antigen has been targeted, after which the antigen is processed and consequently destroyed. The difference between neutralizing antibodies and binding antibodies is that neutralizing antibodies neutralize the biological effects of the antigen, while binding antibodies flag antigens.

My authors use the adjective "binding" to distinguish binding antibodies from neutralizing antibodies, just like in this paper, for instance: BAbs and NAbs. Another section in my document gives the results of an assay of NAbs against the same antigen.

Explanation of the difference between binding and neutralizing antibodies from the FDA:

enter image description here

(ADA: anti-drug antibodies)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Not worth an answer, just a comment: antibodies can be abbreviated to Ig, too, so in-text you could also call them "anti-cetuximab Igs" if you find the full expression to be too verbose. $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2018 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ @xusr - I'm afraid "assay for" would imply only the description of the procedure, but in my case the section describes both the procedure of antibody concentration measurement and the results of the procedure. Would of look really odd there? $\endgroup$ Feb 1, 2018 at 4:52

2 Answers 2


The adjective “binding” is not used to qualify “antibody” in English scientific usage because linguistically it is thought to belong with the antigen the antibody binds.

Generally it is omitted if the prefix “anti” is used, e.g.

anti-cetuximab antibody

(e.g. “two or more anti-hapten antibodies” here)

However if you wish to refer to the particular small portion of the antigen that is recognized (the epitope), you might write, e.g.

tyrosine-binding antibody

(e.g. “Hapten‐binding antibodies…” here)

As far as the use of prepositions is concerned, “to” is used with binding, although it is optional. However generally with the antigen, e g.

cetuximab binds to the antibody

(e.g. “Antigen binds to the antibody on the B-cell membrane.” here)


the antibody binds cetuximab

(e.g. “An additional VNAR, Help6, which binds Hepatitis B precore protein” here.)

Completely illogical, I know, and this distinction is not universal.

However, “against” is used in relation to preparing or raising antibodies, e.g.

We raised an antibody against cetuximab…

(See the legend to Fig 1. in this paper.)

So in general one would write:

  1. Assay of anti-cetuximab antibodies in serum

Addendum: Binding antibodies v. Neutralizing antibodies

The revised question makes it clear that the authors are referring to “binding antibodies” as a specific contrast to “neutralizing antibodies”. This expression was not known to me (I am not an immunologist), and, although the poster documents it, its use would appear to be limited, perhaps because the topic is or was controversial.

The question remains, how to express this idea in a clear and unambiguous manner, with the specific problem that the poster is a translator, not an editor. I would still try to avoid the use of the word “binding” in the expression. I have two suggestions:

  1. I believe that an alternative expression would be “non-neutralizing antibody” (the paper just quoted does not hyphenate this term, but others do, and I would). If this belief is correct, one could write:
  1. Assay of non-neutralizing anti-cetuximab antibodies in serum
  1. Alternatively one could use the abbreviation, “BAb”, from the paper cited by the poster, although this would have to be defined somewhere.
  1. Assay of anti-cetuximab BAbs in serum
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, you are correct, good sir. You know what they say - there's more than one way to refer to an antibody! $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ I was preparing this answer on SE EL&U when some idiot commented that he should post elsewhere — not necessary — and I couldn't post my answer as the question had been deleted. Hence the somewhat linguistic tone. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, but the linguistic tone is not at all out of place in SE Biology; quite the contrary, it is most welcome. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Stefan — Not what I was saying earlier today, but I could hardly send him back to EL&U. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ I know. I mean I enjoy the linguistic tone no matter where I come across it. $\endgroup$
    – Stefan
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:34

In English, you say that antibodies bind to something (X), not against something. You can use the phrases "X-binding antibodies," "X-specific antibodies," "X binders" (when referring to the antibodies that you've previously introduced in the text), to name a few. You can use "antibodies binding to X," but not "binding antibodies to X," people will misinterpret the latter, because it means something else is binding to the antibodies or you are trying to bind something to the antibodies.


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