Economic Drivers and Trade-Offs in Antibody Purification Processes - The future of therapeutic MAbs lies in the development of economically feasible downstream processes. - BioPharm International

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Economic Drivers and Trade-Offs in Antibody Purification Processes
The future of therapeutic MAbs lies in the development of economically feasible downstream processes.


BioPharm International Supplements


Material Reuse and Lifetime

In downstream processing, the distribution of raw material costs is highly dependent on whether or not resins and filters are reused. When treating these material components as disposables, resins and filters tend to dominate the material costs. Similar patterns can be seen in clinical manufacturing because these materials remain product specific. The impact of this operating strategy on the overall COG/g can depend on both the scale and the phase of development. The use of downstream consumables such as resins and membranes in a disposable fashion for a 200-L antibody process supplying early-phase clinical trials can provide both financial and operational savings.7,17,18 It has been reported that downstream processing using disposables can become a major disadvantage at the 10,000-L scale.19 This can be attributed to the fact that economies of scale result in a disproportionate effect on raw materials.20 Consequently, raw materials savings become more important for any process as the scale increases.

The reuse of resins and filters involves a trade-off between reduced material costs and increased cleaning validation costs to determine the number of reuses with consistent performance. The higher the component cost or number of process steps, or the lower the validation costs, the greater the incentives to adopt filter or resin reuse.21 Chromatography resins, in particular Protein A, are often quoted as dominating purification raw material costs, owing to the high cost of the resin which is higher than ion-exchange resins. Large bioreactor scales of 10,000 L operating with a titer of 1 g/L, can result in Protein A resin costs of $4–5 million.22 Consequently, Protein A resins tend to be used in smaller quantities with multiple cycles, despite the complications of reuse validation.22,23 The reuse of Protein A resins can dramatically reduce their relative contribution to costs, making the costs associated with filters much more prevalent. In particular, virus filtration can represent a large contributor to purification material costs because of the costly membranes that are often used in a disposable fashion.24

Buffer and Water for Injection Demands

As the reuse of filters and resins increases, the cost of made-up buffers [chemical reagents and water for injection (WFI)] can account for a surprisingly large proportion of the costs, which can, in some cases, be greater than the cost of resins and filters. For example, at a fermentation scale of 20,000 L, approximately 140,000 L of buffer is required.25 The difficulty in estimating buffer costs partly reflects the large differences in the estimated costs of WFI, with values of approximately $0.20/L suggested for in-house generation and $3/L for vendor or contract manufacturing organization charges.26 Buffer costs have been quoted as varying between $2/L and $12/L.27 Efforts to reduce the volume and number of buffers required can lead to savings, because this naturally occurs when moving from a three-step chromatography platform to a two-step one.

As increasing titers demand the use of larger downstream equipment or additional cycles, the requirement for buffers and WFI will also increase. In existing facilities, this can present retrofit challenges if demands exceed the capacity of the buffer preparation suites and WFI storage tanks or the rate of WFI generation. The use of buffer concentrates and in-line buffer mixing can help to reduce the tank size and floor space required for buffers.28

Chromatography Capacity

The greater the mass load during chromatography, the greater the likelihood that the practical capacity of chromatography columns will be exceeded where the current limit of column diameters is 2 m.29 Under these circumstances, multiple cycles may be required and there is a risk that the downstream processing time will exceed the bioreactor time. This will reduce the potential throughput of the facility and impact on the COG/g. These large columns can also pose installation challenges in existing facilities if there is insufficient floor space and if they cannot fit through doors.30


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