Protein and solute distribution in drug substance containers during frozen storage and post-thawing: A tool to understand and define freezing–thawing parameters in biotechnology process development



Active pharmaceutical ingredient for biotechnology-based drugs, commonly known as drug substance (DS), is often stored frozen for longer shelf-life. Freezing DS enhances stability by slowing down reaction rates that lead to protein instability, minimizes the risk of microbial growth, and eliminates the risk of transport-related stress. High density polyethylene bottles are commonly used for storing monoclonal antibody DS due to good mechanical stress/strain resistant properties even at low temperatures. Despite the aforementioned advantages for frozen storage of DS, this is not devoid of risks. Proteins are known to undergo ice–water surface denaturation, cryoconcentration, and cold denaturation during freezing. A systematic investigation was performed to better understand the protein and solute distribution along with potential of aggregate formation during freeze and thaw process. A significant solute and protein concentration gradient was observed for both frozen and thawed DS bottles. In case of thawed DS, cryoconcentration was localized in the bottom layer and a linear increase in concentration as a function of liquid depth was observed. On the other hand, for frozen DS, a “bell shaped” cryoconcentration distribution was observed between the bottom layers and centre position. A cryoconcentration of almost three-fold was observed for frozen DS in the most concentrated part when freezing was conducted at −20 and −40 °C and 2.5-fold cryoconcentration was observed in the thawed DS before mixing. The information obtained in this study is critical to design freeze thaw experiments, storage condition determination, and process improvement in manufacturing environment. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011