With the trend towards the generation and production of increasing numbers of complex biopharmaceutical (protein based) products, there is an increased need and requirement to characterize both the product and production process in terms of robustness and reproducibility. This is of particular importance for products from mammalian cell culture which have large molecular structures and more often than not complex post-translational modifications (PTMs) that can impact the efficacy, stability and ultimately the safety of the final product. It is therefore vital to understand how the operating conditions of a bioprocess affect the distribution and make up of these PTMs to ensure a consistent quality and activity in the final product. Here we have characterized a typical bioprocess and determined (a) how the time of harvest from a mammalian cell culture and, (b) through the use of an ultra scale-down mimic how the nature of the primary recovery stages, affect the distribution and make up of the PTMs observed on a recombinant IgG4 monoclonal antibody. In particular we describe the use of rapid whole antibody analysis by mass spectrometry to analyze simultaneously the changes that occur to the cleavage of heavy chain C-terminal lysine residues and the glycosylation pattern, as well as the presence of HL dimers. The time of harvest was found to have a large impact upon the range of glycosylation patterns observed, but not upon C-terminal lysine cleavage. The culture age had a profound impact on the ratio of different glycan moieties found on antibody molecules. The proportion of short glycans increased (e.g., (G0F)2 20–35%), with an associated decrease in the proportion of long glycans with culture age (e.g., (G2F)2 7–4%, and G1F/G2F from 15.2% to 7.8%). Ultra scale-down mimics showed that subsequent processing of these cultures did not change the post-translational modifications investigated, but did increase the proportion of half antibodies present in the process stream. The combination of ultra scale-down methodology and whole antibody analysis by mass spectrometry has demonstrated that the effects of processing on the detailed molecular structure of a monoclonal antibody can be rapidly determined early in the development process. In this study we have demonstrated this analysis to be applicable to critical process design decisions (e.g., time of harvest) in terms of achieving a desired molecular structure, but this approach could also be applied as a selection criterion as to the suitability of a platform process for the preparation of a new drug candidate. Also the methodology provides means for bioprocess engineers to predict at the discovery phase how a bioprocess will impact upon the quality of the final product
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