Tim D. Jones, Paul J. Carter, Andreas Plückthun, Max Vásquez, Robert G.E. Holgate, Isidro Hötzel, Andrew G. Popplewell, Paul W.H.I. Parren, Markus Enzelberger, Hendrik J. Rademaker, Michael R. Clark, David C. Lowe, Bassil I. Dahiyat, Victoria Smith, John M. Lambert, Herren Wu, Mary Reilly, John S. Haurum, Stefan Dübel, James S. Huston, Thomas, Schirrmann, Richard A.J. Janssen, Martin Steegmaier, Jane A. Gross, Andrew R.M. Bradbury, Dennis R. Burton, Dimiter S. Dimitrov, Kerry A. Chester, Martin J. Glennie, Julian Davies, Adam Walker, Steve Martin, John McCafferty & Matthew P. Baker (2016) The INNs and outs of antibody nonproprietary names, mAbs, 8:1, 1-9, DOI: 10.1080/19420862.2015.1114320
An important step in drug development is the assignment of an International Nonproprietary Name (INN) by the World Health Organization (WHO) that provides healthcare professionals with a unique and universally available designated name to identify each pharmaceutical substance. Monoclonal antibody INNs comprise a –mab suffix preceded by a substem indicating the antibody type, e.g., chimeric (-xi-), humanized (-zu-), or human (-u-). The WHO publishes INN definitions that specify how new monoclonal antibody therapeutics are categorized and adapts the definitions to new technologies. However, rapid progress in antibody technologies has blurred the boundaries between existing antibody categories and created a burgeoning array of new antibody formats. Thus, revising the INN system for antibodies is akin to aiming for a rapidly moving target. The WHO recently revised INN definitions for antibodies now to be based on amino acid sequence identity. These new definitions, however, are critically flawed as they are ambiguous and go against decades of scientific literature. A key concern is the imposition of an arbitrary threshold for identity against human germline antibody variable region sequences. This leads to inconsistent classification of somatically mutated human antibodies, humanized antibodies as well as antibodies derived from semi-synthetic/synthetic libraries and transgenic animals. Such sequence-based classification implies clear functional distinction between categories (e.g., immunogenicity). However, there is no scientific evidence to support this. Dialog between the WHO INN Expert Group and key stakeholders is needed to develop a new INN system for antibodies and to avoid confusion and miscommunication between researchers and clinicians prescribing antibodies.
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