The human antibody repertoire is increasingly being recognized as a valuable source of therapeutic grade antibodies. However, methods for mining primary antibody-expressing B cells are limited in their ability to rapidly isolate rare and antigen-specific binders. Here we show the encapsulation of two million primary B cells into picoliter-sized droplets, where their cognate V genes are fused in frame to form a library of scFv cassettes. We used this approach to construct natively-paired phage-display libraries from healthy donors and drove selection towards cross-reactive antibodies targeting influenza hemagglutinin. Within four weeks we progressed from B cell isolation to a panel of unique monoclonal antibodies, including seven that displayed broad reactivity to different clinically-relevant influenza hemagglutinin subtypes. Most isolated antibody sequences were not detected by next-generation sequencing of the paired repertoire, illustrating how this method can isolate extremely rare leads not likely found by existing technologies.
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