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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N025105/1
Title: Enabling rapid liquid and freeze-dried formulation design for the manufacture and delivery of novel biopharmaceuticals
Principal Investigator: Dalby, Professor PA
Other Investigators:
Velayudhan, Professor A
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arecor Ltd FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies UK Ltd GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK)
Ipsen Biopharm Limited Nat Inst for Bio Standards and Control UCB
Wyatt Technology UK Ltd
Department: Biochemical Engineering
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 July 2016 Ends: 30 June 2021 Value (£): 1,519,555
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Bioprocess Engineering Drug Formulation & Delivery
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
EP/N024796/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
19 Feb 2016 Future Formulation FULL Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Biopharmaceuticals have been approved to treat diseases including cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, leukemia and neutropenia. The next-generation of protein-based therapies, or biopharmaceuticals, are of increasingly complex engineered forms, with unpredictable solution properties. Proteins are formulated at high concentrations for clinical use, leading often to undesirable aggregate formation, high viscosity, opalescence, or phase separation, rendering them unsafe, or difficult to inject or manufacture. This is a major challenge to the biopharmaceuticals industry as approximately 50% of proteins in clinical trials have been freeze-dried as they were not readily liquid-formulated on timescales of months required during development. Formulation is an empirical process using combinatorial screens that aim to optimise stability, potency and ease of delivery to patients. Engagement with 36 industry leaders at a UCL EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing workshop identified the most significant protein formulation challenges such as the prediction of shelf stability over a two year period, at a time in development when not much material is available. Current surrogate techniques that accelerate protein degradation and minimize sample consumption provide poor indicators of 2-year shelf-life. Industry would benefit significantly from i) rapid analyses that more accurately determine long-term shelf-life, ii) low concentration analyses that indicate high-concentration solution behaviour, and iii) a better ability to use calculated protein and excipient properties to predict those formulations that are most likely to meet the required attributes.

State-of-the-art automated microplate and microfluidic analytics, purchased or established recently via EPSRC and BBSRC/BRIC awards at UCL and UoM provide a timely platform for generating large experimental datasets of aggregation kinetics spanning many different timescales, conformational and colloidal stabilities, rheological properties, phase-transition and glass transition temperatures, for liquid and freeze-dried formulations. A recent EPSRC funded £500k pilot-scale freeze-drying facility at UCL (EP/M028100/1), combined with DoE and 3D process simulations, will generate freeze-drying process models that elucidate the mechanisms linking critical process parameters to critical quality attributes for new formulations. Novel dipeptides emerging from recent UoM work will significantly expand the range of industry-accepted formulation excipients available. Novel microfluidic analytics will be tailored for formulation needs, bringing earlier, more sensitive, and lower-volume assessments of formulated protein heterogeneity and storage kinetics, ultimately in a high-throughput format using sealed microwells.

All data will populate a web-access database at UoM to provide modeling groups access to a much-needed experimental dataset. Informatics techniques initiated at UoM in a BioProNet PoC award will enable new proteins to be compared (via properties calculated from sequence and structure) to those in the database, and use their experimentally determined formulation behaviours in a predictive manner. Correlations between calculated protein properties and critical formulation attributes will identify the molecular basis of excipient behaviour.

Overall, this will benefit the biopharmaceutical formulation community with an ability to: a) identify better excipient combinations for input into formulation screens; b) predict those protein candidates most readily formulatable with current excipients and solution conditions; c) inform the rational design of novel peptide-based excipients through defined chemical modifications, d) predict long-term storage stability and concentrated solution behaviour from accessible experiments using minimal sample.
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