IPI Article: Immunogenicity Management in Biologics

15th January 2024

In a recent article in the International Pharmaceutical Industry Journal, Abzena’s Chief Scientific Officer, Campbell Bunce PhD MBA, and VP of Research and Innovation of Protein Engineering, Rob Holgate, delve into the changing landscape of immunogenicity management and assessments.
Within the article, they detail how a combination of innovative technologies, collaborative regulatory framework, and a commitment to the shared vision of advancing healthcare, can provide a unified path going forward for the management of immunogenicity in drug development- ultimately improving the path forward for biologics

Mastering the Immune Response: Immunogenicity Management in Biologics

The advent of therapeutic proteins and gene therapies has been a beacon of hope for treating complex diseases. Yet, these innovative treatments often face the significant hurdle of immunogenicity – when the drug administered provokes an immune response in the body. This biological response occurs when the immune system identifies these therapies as foreign, potentially undermining their therapeutic target. Understanding and managing immunogenicity is a key factor in the development of biologics; it impacts not just the treatment’s effectiveness but also its safety profile.1 Starting from the early stages of drug development it is essential to predict and reduce the immune response, ensuring that the therapies can perform their intended functions without eliciting adverse reactions.

The presence of anti-drug antibodies (ADA) produced as a result of an immune response against biologic therapeutic agents can lead to clinical challenges, ranging from diminished efficacy to adverse immunological reactions. ADAs can neutralize the therapeutic activity of drugs, alter their pharmacokinetic profiles, and even trigger immune responses that mimic autoimmune disorders.2 These consequences make it critical for drug developers to anticipate the immunogenic potential of new therapies and incorporate strategies that minimize ADA development. Understanding the interaction between the drug and the immune system allows for the design of therapies that not only achieve their therapeutic goals but also maintain a favorable safety profile.3

Regulatory bodies across the globe, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), have emphasized the necessity of comprehensive immunogenicity risk assessment for the approval of biologic therapies.4 The goal is to ensure that potential immunogenicity issues are identified and mitigated before clinical trials and market entry. This is not merely a regulatory compliance issue but a core component of patient safety. A thorough assessment can help drug developers make informed decisions that enhance the clinical success and patient acceptance of new biologic treatments. Ultimately, thorough immunogenicity testing shapes the path to innovative therapies that can be safely integrated into patient care.

The Rise of In Silico and In Vitro Tools

In silico tools – computational methods to simulate biological processes – are essential for predicting immunogenicity risk in drug development. These computational platforms facilitate the identification of peptide sequences that could potentially bind to Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) alleles – variants of genes that encode for cell surface proteins that are critical for the immune system’s recognition of foreign proteins.5 By identifying such “hot spots” within therapeutic protein sequences, these tools can predict regions likely to trigger immune responses. Various platforms, such as the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) offer the capability to rapidly screen numerous variants for their potential to bind to a broad range of HLA alleles.6 This screening is pivotal for narrowing down candidates early in the drug discovery process, allowing researchers to focus on those with the lowest predicted immunogenicity risk.

Access the full article here

Abzena’s Expertise in Immunogenicity 

Abzena has decades of experience in conducting immunogenicity assessments on biologic and bioconjugate drug programs.  Our approach focuses on developing phase-appropriate assays for the assessment of potency, efficacy, and safety to provide you with the necessary data to make effective decisions for your drug development program.  For more information on our immunogenicity assessement capabilities, click here.