Buffer capacity of biologics—from buffer salts to buffering by antibodies



Controlling pH is essential for a variety of biopharmaceutical process steps. The chemical stability of biologics such as monoclonal antibodies is pH-dependent and slightly acidic conditions are favorable for stability in a number of cases. Since control of pH is widely provided by added buffer salts, the current study summarizes the buffer characteristics of acetate, citrate, histidine, succinate, and phosphate buffers. Experimentally derived values largely coincide with values calculated from a model that had been proposed in 1922 by van Slyke. As high concentrated protein formulations become more and more prevalent for biologics, the self-buffering potential of proteins becomes of relevance. The current study provides information on buffer characteristics for pH ranges down to 4.0 and up to 8.0 and shows that a monoclonal antibody at 50 mg/mL exhibits similar buffer capacity as 6 mM citrate or 14 mM histidine (pH 5.0–6.0). Buffer capacity of antibody solutions scales linearly with protein concentration up to more than 200 mg/mL. At a protein concentration of 220 mg/mL, the buffer capacity resembles the buffer capacity of 30 mM citrate or 50 mM histidine (pH 5.0–6.0). The buffer capacity of monoclonal antibodies is practically identical at the process relevant temperatures 5, 25, and 40°C. Changes in ionic strength of ΔI=0.15, in contrast, can alter the buffer capacity up to 35%. In conclusion, due to efficient self-buffering by antibodies in the pH range of favored chemical stability, conventional buffer excipients could be dispensable for pH stabilization of high concentrated protein solutions. © 2013 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 29: 480–492, 2013