Friday, June 10, 2011

Small, non-enveloped viruses: number 1 threat to biologics manufacture

by Dr. Ray Nims

Perhaps surprisingly, few types of viruses have infected biologics manufacture since the 1980s when the first recombinant proteins began to be produced in mammalian cells. While the list of contaminating viruses has included some relatively large enveloped and non-enveloped viruses (Reovirus type 2, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus, Cache Valley virus, human adenovirus), by far the most problematic contaminants have been the small non-enveloped viruses. Why? For the most part, the contaminations involving the larger viruses have been attributed to the use of non-gamma irradiated bovine serum or to operators conducting open vessel manipulations. Remediating the manufacturing processes to include gamma irradiation of the serum (or elimination of the use of serum altogether), and eliminating wherever possible open vessel operations should mitigate the risk of experiencing these viruses.

Now we come to the small non-enveloped viruses, the real problem. Foremost among these has been murine minute virus (MMV). This 20-25 nm non-enveloped parvovirus has infected biologics manufacturing processes using Chinese hamster cell substrates on at least four occasions, affecting at least three different manufacturers (Genentech, Amgen, and Merrimack). In each case, the source of the contamination has been unclear, making remediation of the processes difficult. Due to the ability of these viruses to survive on surfaces and their resistance to inactivation by detergents and solvents, eliminating the agent from contaminated facilities may require drastic measures such as fumigation with vaporous hydrogen peroxide .

A second problem virus is the 27-40 nm non-enveloped calicivirus, vesivirus 2117. This is the virus that was found to have infected the Genzyme Allston manufacturing facility in 2009. The same virus had appeared already once in the past, at a manufacturing facility in Germany. Both of the infected processes involved Chinese hamster production cells and both involved the use of bovine serum at some point in the manufacturing process. Whether or not the animal-derived material was the actual source of the infection was not proven in either case. Unfortunately, if the source was the bovine serum, gamma irradiation probably would not mitigate the risk, as gamma irradiation is less effective for inactivating the smaller non-enveloped viruses. This is another virus that may be able to survive on facility surfaces. As in the case with MMV, ridding a manufacturing facility of vesivirus may require entire facility fumigation with vaporous hydrogen peroxide, as was done at Genzyme.

Another problem virus is the 17-20 nm porcine circovirus that was found to contaminate a rotavirus vaccine in 2010. This virus was thought to have originated in contaminated porcine trypsin used in the manufacturing process. Wouldn’t this contaminant have shown up in the raw material testing done for the trypsin, or in the extensive cell bank testing required for vaccine production substrates? The answer is no. The circovirus would not have been detected using the 9CFR-based detection methods used for trypsin at this time (and at present). And the required testing for cell banks used to produce vaccines would not have detected this particular virus. To make matters worse, gamma irradiation of the trypsin would not be expected to inactivate this virus. How can we mitigate the risk of this virus going forward? As described in a previous posting, manufacturers may need to apply specific nucleic acid tests for the circovirus as part of the raw material release process for trypsin.

These and other small non-enveloped viruses represent the greatest risk for biologics manufacturing because they are more difficult to inactivate in raw materials, and more difficult to eradicate from the facility once infected, and because the source of the infection is not always clear. There must be analogous small-non-enveloped bacteriophage lurking out there that represent, for the same reasons, special threats to the fermentation industry.