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Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2008 Jul;4(7):871-7. doi: 10.1517/17425255.4.7.871 .

Species selection considerations for preclinical toxicology studies for biotherapeutics.

Author information

  • Executive Director of Toxicology Amgen, Inc., One Amgen Center Dr, MS 29-2-A, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320-1799, USA. bussierj@amgen.com



Preclinical efficacy and safety studies, especially chronic studies, can be difficult to perform when the candidate therapeutic agent is a human protein due to the specificity of these molecules for the human target. The main issues are: i) the human protein or target may not be pharmacologically active in rodents or dogs, the standard toxicology species; or ii) the therapeutic agent may be so immunogenic in these species, that longer duration studies are not possible due to the formation of neutralizing antibodies. Thus, preclinical safety testing of biotherapeutics poses a particular challenge in selecting a relevant animal species for use in toxicology studies.


This article will discuss the considerations that are unique to safety assessment of biotherapeutics and will provide alternatives to the standard toxicity testing which is conducted for small molecules.


This article is based on published information with regards to species selection considerations as well as information from the FDA website on several marketed compounds. In addition, discussions of this topic that have occurred in public forums as well as the experience of the author are considered.


The most important consideration in species selection for a biotherapeutic is that the drug is pharmacologically active in the preclinical species. This is a key consideration as biotherapeutics are highly targeted and rarely, if ever, demonstrate off-target toxicity. Because of this species specificity, nonhuman primates are often the only relevant species that can be used to assess the safety of a biotherapeutic. Other alternatives such as use of a homologous protein in rodents or the use of transgenic or knockout mice can also be used to assess safety although the caveats to these approaches must be considered.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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