Protein concentration is an important attribute in the production of subunit or component-based vaccine antigens. Rigorous monitoring of protein concentration is required to identify potential areas for yield improvement. The current GMP method for quantitation is the plate-based ELISA which requires numerous hands-on steps and has low sensitivity in comparison to new microfluidic systems. To address this issue, a sensitive automated microCapillary Electrophoresis ImmunoAssay (mCE IA) method was developed to accurately separate and quantitate pertactin (PRN), an important antigen of the modern acellular Pertussis (aP) vaccine. PRN is reported to be a low-yielding antigen; thus, it is critical to observe its concentration throughout its manufacturing process. First, a primary antibody for PRN was identified to establish suitable immunoprobing conditions for detection of PRN over a wide linear dynamic range that spans 3 orders of magnitude. Next, the pre-adsorbed PRN Drug Substance (DS) was used as a reference standard to quantitate PRN samples against a calibration curve with adequate accuracy and precision. Four representative samples including three in-process steps and final adjuvanted drug product: Quadracel®, were examined to demonstrate the capability of mCE IA to quantitate PRN with high sensitivity and specificity. The matrices of the selected samples contain additional components (e.g. other proteins, growth factors, cell culture media, residual ammonium sulfate, and aluminum adjuvant) often making the quantitation of PRN challenging. The specificity and method linearity were demonstrated by spiking pre-adsorbed PRN DS into the four representative samples. In addition, it was shown that reportable concentrations of PRN for nine downstream process steps as analyzed by our method is comparable to concentrations obtained with ELISA. Most importantly, this study demonstrated that our method’s quantitative accuracy is independent of matrix components, as each sample undergoes extensive dilution. This allows for seamless end-to-end analysis of PRN from fermenter harvest, through to complex downstream process samples to adjuvanted drug products. Finally, for the first time the developed and qualified mCE IA method was shown to quantify PRN throughout the entire manufacturing process to provide rapid feedback for process optimizations allowing for accurate yield and step-loss calculations.
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