Demonstration of Robust Host Cell Protein Clearance in Biopharmaceutical Downstream Processes



Residual host cell protein impurities (HCPs) are a key component of biopharmaceutical process related impurities. These impurities need to be effectively cleared through chromatographic steps in the downstream purification process to produce safe and efficacious protein biopharmaceuticals. A variety of strategies to demonstrate robust host cell protein clearance using scale-down studies are highlighted and compared. A common strategy is the “spiking” approach, which is widely employed in clearance studies for well-defined impurities. For HCPs this approach involves spiking cell culture harvest, which is rich in host cell proteins, into the load material for all chromatographic steps to assess their clearance ability. However, for studying HCP clearance, this approach suffers from the significant disadvantage that the vast majority of host cell protein impurities in a cell culture harvest sample are not relevant for a chromatographic step that is downstream of the capture step in the process. Two alternative strategies are presented here to study HCP clearance such that relevance of those species for a given chromatographic step is taken into consideration. These include a “bypass” strategy, which assumes that some of the load material for a chromatographic step bypasses that step and makes it into the load for the subsequent step. The second is a “worst-case” strategy, which utilizes information obtained from process characterization studies. This involves operating steps at a combination of their operating parameters within operating ranges that yield the poorest clearance of HCPs over that step. The eluate from the worst case run is carried forward to the next chromatographic step to assess its ability to clear HCPs. Both the bypass and worst-case approaches offer significant advantages over the spiking approach with respect to process relevance of the HCP impurity species being studied. A combination of these small-scale validation approaches with large-scale HCP clearance data from clinical manufacturing and manufacturing consistency runs is used to demonstrate robust HCP clearance for the downstream purification process of an Fc fusion protein. The demonstration of robust HCP clearance through this comprehensive strategy can potentially be used to eliminate the need for routine analytical testing or for establishing acceptance criteria for these impurities as well as to demonstrate robust operation of the entire downstream purification process.