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Identification of multiple serine to asparagine sequence variation sites in an intended copy product of LUCENTIS® by mass spectrometry

September 8, 2017

Patent expiration of first-generation biologics and the high cost of innovative biologics are 2 drivers for the development of biosimilar products. There are, however, technical challenges to the production of exact copies of such large molecules. In this study, we performed a head-to-head comparison between the originator anti-VEGF-A Fab product LUCENTIS® (ranibizumab) and an intended copy product using an integrated analytical approach. While no differences could be observed using size-exclusion chromatography, capillary electrophoresis-sodium dodecyl sulfate and potency assays, different acidic peaks were identified with cation ion exchange chromatography and capillary zone electrophoresis. Further investigation of the intact Fab, subunits and primary sequence with mass spectrometry demonstrated the presence of a modified light chain variant in the intended copy product batches. This variant was characterized with a mass increase of 27.01 Da compared to the originator sequence and its abundance was estimated in the range of 6–9% of the intended copy product light chain. MS/MS spectra interrogation confirmed that this modification relates to a serine to asparagine sequence variant found in the intended copy product light chain. We demonstrated that the integration of high-resolution and sensitive orthogonal technologies was beneficial to assess the similarity of an originator and an intended copy product.