Thursday, October 29, 2009

Got animal-derived materials? Part 2

By Ray Nims

As part of a formal animal-derived materials program, biopharma companies must assess the viral and TSE risk associated with materials derived from animals or which have been in contact with animal-derived materials at some point. We have addressed the viral risk within a previous blog installment. Now let’s consider the TSE risk.

TSEs (transmissible spongiform encephalopathies) are fatal diseases believed to result from exposure of a few animal species (including various ruminants, cervids, ungulates, cats, minks, and humans) to “infectious” prion proteins. The infectious proteins (PrPSc) are capable of interacting with and altering the normal prion proteins (PrPc) within the brain and spinal cord, changing the normal proteins to the abnormal form. Since humans have contracted prion disease as a result of consuming tissues from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), there is concern about the use of bovine materials and materials from other “relevant species” in the manufacture of biopharmaceuticals.

The EMEA has provided a guidance document (EMEA/410/01 Rev. 2 October 2003; describing the requirements for the use of animal-derived materials from relevant animal species (cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals which are naturally susceptible to TSEs but not including humans or non-human primates) in the manufacture of medicinal or veterinary products. The guidance applies to active substances, excipients and adjuvants, raw and starting materials and reagents, and materials which come into contact with products or equipment used to make product. The major point of the guidance is that TSE risk can be minimized, but in many cases not entirely eliminated. Where TSE risk cannot be avoided through elimination of animal-derived materials completely, the guidance provides principles for the minimization of TSE risk which include: the use of low-risk (non-relevant) animal species, the geographical sourcing of relevant species from low-risk regions, the use of low-risk tissues, the use of appropriate slaughter techniques to reduce potential for contamination of low-risk tissues with high-risk tissues, the appropriate oversight of manufacture of the animal products through Quality Assurance and self and external auditing and Quality Control testing, and the implementation of process designs to remove or inactivate the abnormal prion proteins.

Biopharma companies using animal-derived materials are instructed to perform risk assessments on those materials, which take into account the factors described above. The risk assessments must be completed as part of a formalized animal-derived materials program, documented procedurally and executed by staff that are experienced and trained to conduct such assessments. EMEA inspectors will expect to see this formal program in place. Risk assessments for individual raw materials may then be rolled up into a risk assessment for the biopharma product. The rolled up risk assessment may also consider manufacturing steps at the biopharma which may remove or inactivate the abnormal prion proteins, though these, if cited, may need to be validated. Finally, it is expected that companies will conduct a benefit/risk evaluation to assure that any benefits realized by the patient taking the product will outweigh and justify the risk associated with the use of materials derived from relevant animal species.

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