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Haeuser, Christina; Goldbach, Pierre; Huwyler, Jörg; Friess, Wolfgang; Allmendinger, Andrea (2020): Impact of dextran on thermal properties, product quality attributes, and monoclonal antibody stability in freeze-dried formulations. In: European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, Vol. 147: pp. 45-56
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Freeze-drying is commonly used to improve stability of liquid formulations of labile biopharmaceuticals. Lyo- and cryoprotectants such as sucrose are traditionally utilized as excipients, but have low glass transition (T-g') and collapse temperatures (T-c), Consequently, these formulations require low primary drying temperatures making the lyophilization cycle time-consuming and costly. We investigated different dextrans (1, 40, 150, and 500 kDa) and mixtures of dextran with sucrose as alternative excipients. The influence of dextran on thermal properties, cake appearance, and other quality attributes in the solid state was studied using bovine serum albumin as model protein. Especially at higher weight ratios of dextran to sucrose, dextrans of medium to high molecular weight (M-w) of 40-500 kDa showed up to 20 degrees C higher T-c compared to sucrose, which was reflected in elegant lyophilisates. However, this resulted in slower reconstitution times. Addition of dextran led to lower residual moisture levels and higher T-g values compared to sucrose. We confirmed the thermal properties for two monoclonal antibodies (mAb) at two weight ratios of sucrose and dextran with different M-w, and tested for stability at 40 degrees C for 14 days. While no loss in relative potency of the antibodies was observed after storage, size exclusion chromatography and isoelectric focusing revealed a strong increase in high molecular weight species (HMWs) and acidic species, which were dependent on the M w of the dextrans. With further characterization of selected formulations (dextran 1 kDa) by boronate affinity chromatography and mass spectrometry analysis, we demonstrated that HMWs were a result of glycation by free terminal glucose of the dextran. This chemical modification was strongly reduced when adding sucrose, which protects the protein possibly by shielding its surface. Our results demonstrate that formulation scientists need to use dextrans as excipients in freeze-dried mAb formulations with caution. A binary mixture of sucrose and dextran in adequate ratio however might potentially be superior to pure sucrose formulations allowing for faster freeze-drying cycles resulting in elegant lyophilisates and good protein stability.