We are excited to announce that AIRR Community Meeting V “Exploring New Frontiers” will be held in La Jolla, CA from December 8-12, 2020.
Author: Nick Hutchinson, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies
The demand for antibody and antibody-related therapeutics continues to increase.  The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved ~ 100 antibody therapeutics for a wide range of treatments. Nearly 600 antibody drugs are in clinical trials,  with ~75 of these in pivotal Phase 2 or Phase 3 studies.
Small or even virtual companies are developing many of these molecules. Technical teams working within these organizations must understand the activities needed to successfully commercialize the drugs. One critical activity is establishment of production strategies capable of supplying the material requirements of pre-clinical development, toxicology studies, clinical trials and then, if successful, market demand.
Patients cannot benefit from life-saving medicines if the drug’s launch is delayed due to lack of the material required for each phase of development. Furthermore, companies that miss clinical milestones suffer from delayed investments, thus reducing the opportunity to reach the clinic in a timely manner and capture market share, which lowers future revenues.
Many start-up biotech firms have a laser-like focus on the pre-clinical development of their antibody candidates, but sooner or later they must consider a manufacturing strategy that enables pre-clinical or clinical programs to stay on track.
One question drug developers should consider is the extent to which the manufacturability of the candidate is likely to be problematic and jeopardise material supply. Many of the standard, full-length antibodies have well-understood properties and are relatively easy to manufacture, allowing timely delivery to the clinic. However, there is an increasing number of modalities within this product class,  e.g., bispecifics, Fc-fusions and antigen-binding fragments, which may present additional production challenges. These can include challenges such as low expression from cell lines suitable for use in manufacturing, poor stability during purification processes or the need for non-standard analytical methods.
One company I spoke to, for example, knew that they needed to increase the productivity of their cell cultures from below 0.5 g/L to greater than 3 g/L in order for the product to be commercially viable. Another company developing a monoclonal antibody explained that they needed a titer of ~ 10 g/L to ensure production efficiency was sufficiently high to allow them to be price competitive. A third company found that the isoelectric point of their Fc-fusion molecule was relatively low and they needed a tailored purification process for their product.
Companies developing standard IgG1, IgG2 or IgG4 products can leverage manufacturing platforms.  These allow production of different monoclonal antibodies with the required quality specifications and at high productivity with little process development. They offer a significant time- and cost-saving over the alternative, i.e, developing new processes for each new candidate. Companies with a pipeline of products may choose to invest in their own manufacturing platform, but, for many early-stage biotech companies it makes little sense to spend investors’ cash on production assets when there is considerable uncertainty around the likely success of a program. For this reason, many will outsource process development and manufacturing to a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), many of whom will have their own established platform processes.
Cell line development scientists can generate stable, clonal cell banks derived from a production-ready host cell line in as little as 10 weeks following transfection. Cell cultures with transfectant pools can produce tens to hundreds of grams of material in as little as eight weeks following transfection. Scientists developing antibody therapeutics can use this antibody for their pre-clinical activities and initial formulation development experiments. In our experience, even at the pre-clinical stage, the drug development process can consume substantial amounts of material. Accurately determining material requirements at this stage will help ensure sufficient antibody is available.
Preclinical material supply might be met with bench-scale bioreactors, but we have worked on programs where the material requirements were sufficiently large that a 200-L mammalian cell culture run was needed, even though the cell line gave a high titer. This clearly demonstrated the utility of having a platform process because no additional process development on either the bioreactor conditions or the purification steps was needed. Expert developers of cell lines know that their host cell line will grow to high cell density under their platform conditions, and will select clones that combine high productivity with the desired product quality profile using high-throughput screening technologies.
Process development scientists operating platform processes typically allocate time, which would previously have been dedicated to manufacturing development, to the refinement of operating parameters and studies of manufacturing robustness that increase the likelihood of that full-scale production lots will be successfully released.
Pilot-scale batches allow companies to predict large-scale manufacturing performance and refine scale-dependant process parameters. Companies often use material from the pilot-scale batch for toxicology work, stability studies and for generating reference standard, against which the first batch for clinical use can be released. It generally takes 6 – 8 months to reach this stage from the start of cell line development, yielding hundreds of grams of antibody, if not more.
For many companies, the demand for clinical-grade drug, manufactured to current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), can be met using bioreactors no larger in volume than 2000-L. The initial batch can be released within 12-14 months from the start of cell line development. Each batch can supply between 1 to 10 kilograms of antibody.
Modern, high-throughput manufacturing facilities provide enormous amounts of capacity such that with a robust, high-titer cell line no further scale-up may be required and firms can commercialize their product within the same facility they used for clinical lots. Others elect to scale-up still further to large-scale stainless steel manufacturing facilities, especially if the market demand is high and the overall process productivity is modest. More recently, firms are considering going to market with manufacturing processes that utilize smaller bioreactors operated in a continuous, perfusion mode. We believe such processes can yield over 15 kg of antibody from a 500-L bioreactor over a 4-week period. Deciding which approach to adopt is never easy because of uncertainties around factors such as dose requirements, overall market demand and competitive pressures. Experienced CDMOs will support customers through this decision-making process and will be able to provide invaluable advice.
In conclusion, many small biotech companies with new antibody drug assets can mitigate risks to drug development and commercialization timelines by thoroughly understanding the material supply requirements for preclinical, toxicology and clinical studies. Once they know this, they can determine how the need can be met by manufacturing organizations during process development and GMP production operations as part as an over-arching strategy for product commercialization.
The Antibody Society is pleased to be affiliated with mAbs, a multi-disciplinary journal dedicated to advancing the art and science of antibody research and development. We hope you enjoy these summaries based on the abstracts of the most read papers published in a recent issue.
All the articles are open access; PDFs can be freely downloaded by following the links below.
In this new Perspective, Dumet et al., present the results from their study of the patent landscape of IgG4 Fc engineering, i.e., patents claiming modifications in the heavy chain. Thirty-seven relevant patent families were identified, comprising hundreds of IgG4 Fc variants focusing on removal of residual effector functions (since IgG4s bind to FcγRI and weakly to other FcγRs), half-life enhancement and IgG4 stability. Given the number of expired or soon to expire major patents in those 3 areas, companies developing blocking antibodies now have, or will in the near future, access to free tools to design silenced, half-life extended and stable IgG4 antibodies.
Parola et al. describe an antibody engineering and screening approach where complete variable light (VL) and heavy (VH) chain cassette libraries are stably integrated into the genome of hybridoma cells by enhanced Cas9-driven homology-directed repair (HDR), resulting in their surface display and secretion. By developing an improved HDR donor format that utilizes in situ linearization, they were able to achieve >15-fold improvement of genomic integration, resulting in a screening workflow that only requires a simple plasmid electroporation. This proved suitable for different applications in antibody discovery and engineering. By integrating and screening an immune library obtained from the variable gene repertoire of an immunized mouse, they isolated a diverse panel of >40 unique antigen-binding variants. They also successfully performed affinity maturation by directed evolution screening of an antibody library based on random mutagenesis, leading to the isolation of several clones with affinities in the picomolar range.
In this new Report, Sustmann et al. present a generic approach to generate two novel IgG-derived antibody formats that are based on a modification of the CrossMab technology. MoAbs harbor two heavy chains (HCs) resulting in one binding entity and one Fc, whereas DuoMabs are composed of four HCs harboring two binding entities and two Fc regions linked at a disulfide-bridged hinge. The latter bivalent format is characterized by avidity-enhanced target cell binding while simultaneously increasing the ‘Fc-load’ on the surface. DuoMabs were shown to be producible in high yield and purity and bind to surface cells with affinities comparable to IgGs. The increased Fc load directed at the surface of target cells by DuoMabs modulates their ADCC competency toward target cells, making them attractive for applications that require or are modulated by FcR interactions.
Heavy chain (Hc) heterodimers represent a majority of bispecific antibodies (bsAbs) under clinical development. Although recent technologies achieve high levels of Hc heterodimerization (HD), traces of homodimer contaminants are often present, and as a consequence robust purification techniques for generating highly pure heterodimers in a single step are needed. Ollier et al. describe two different purification methods that exploit differences in Protein A (PA) or Protein G (PG) avidity between homo- and heterodimers. Differential elution between species was enabled by removing PA or PG binding in one of the Hcs of the bsAb. The PA method allowed the avidity purification of heterodimers based on the VH3 subclass, which naturally binds PA and interferes with separation, by using a combination of IgG3 Fc and a single amino acid change in VH3, N82aS. The PG method relied on a combination of three mutations that completely disrupts PG binding, M428G/N434A in IgG1 Fc and K213V in IgG1 CH1. Both methods achieved a high level of heterodimer purity as single-step techniques without Hc HD (93–98%). Since PA and PG have overlapping binding sites with the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn), they investigated the effects of the engineering both in vitro and in vivo. Mild to moderate differences in FcRn binding and Fc thermal stability were observed, but these did not significantly change the serum half-lives of engineered control antibodies and heterodimers. The methods are conceptually compatible with various Hc HD platforms such as BEAT® (Bispecific Engagement by Antibodies based on the T cell receptor), in which the PA method has already been successfully implemented.
To recognize the research activities of promising student and postdoctoral attendees of Antibody Engineering & Therapeutics, The Antibody Society sponsors a competition for our student/postdoc members who submit posters for display at the meeting. Our judges select the best work based on originality, relevance and perceived impact on the field of antibody R&D.
This year, our judges selected one student and one postdoc winners who receive: 1) a complimentary registration to attend the conference and pre-conference sessions; 2) an opportunity to give a short oral presentation of their work in one of the conference sessions; and 3) support for travel expenses.
The winners of the contest are:
Timothy Czajka, University of New York at Albany (graduate student winner)
Poster title: RIP-Off: An Intrabody-based Strategy to Neutralize Ricin and other Ribosome-Inactivating Protein (RIP) Toxins
Kamal Joshi, Genentech (Postdoctoral research fellow winner)
Poster title: Toward Deeper Understanding of Bispecific Antibodies
Antibody Engineering & Therapeutics, the annual meeting of The Antibody Society, managed by KNect365, will be held December 10-13, 2019 in San Diego, CA.
Society members receive a 15% discount on the registration fee. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the code.
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The fourth AIRR Community meeting (#AIRRC4) took place at the University of Genoa, May 11–15, 2019, in an unusual and gorgeous location. All talks were held in a 17th century church that has been repurposed for conference settings. The overarching theme of this meeting was “Bridging the Gaps” which aimed to address technological gaps between the amounts of accumulated data and our ability to process them, and the need for more involvement of stakeholder communities (industry, clinicians, patient communities) for the dissemination and implementation of the standards developed by the AIRR Community.
AIRR Community meetings are the premier event for research on adaptive immune-receptor repertoires. They are also the primary location where the AIRR-Community’s Working Groups and Sub-committees come together in one location to discuss how to push standardization in AIRR-sequencing (AIRR-seq) data and analysis forward. All meeting documents, slides, and video recordings can be found here:
Just like the biology of immune repertoires is high-dimensional, this meeting’s success was as well! We gathered some of the numbers that best describe the success of the AIRR C IV meeting.