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Biotechnol J. 2009 Feb;4(2):186-201. doi: 10.1002/biot.200800241.

Emerging trends in plasma-free manufacturing of recombinant protein therapeutics expressed in mammalian cells.

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Baxter BioScience, Vienna, Austria.


Mammalian cells are the expression system of choice for therapeutic proteins, especially those requiring complex post-translational modifications. Traditionally, these cells are grown in medium supplemented with serum and other animal- or human-derived components to support viability and productivity. Such proteins are also typically added as excipients and stabilizers in the final drug formulation. However, the transmission of hepatitis B in the 1970s and of hepatitis C and HIV in the 1980s through plasma-derived factor VIII concentrates had catastrophic consequences for hemophilia patients. Thus, due to regulatory concerns about the inherent potential for transmission of infectious agents as well as the heterogeneity and lack of reliability of the serum supply, a trend has emerged to eliminate the use of plasma-derived additives in the production and formulation of recombinant protein therapeutics. This practice began with products used in the treatment of hemophilia and is progressively expanding throughout the entire industry. The plasma-free method of producing recombinant therapeutics is accomplished by the use of both cell culture media and final product formulations that do not contain animal- or human-derived additives. A number of recombinant therapeutic proteins for the treatment of several different diseases have been produced by plasma-free processes, with the objective of improving safety by eliminating blood-borne pathogens or by reducing immunogenicity. This review describes the factors that drove the development of plasma-free protein therapeutics and provides examples of advances in manufacturing that have made possible the removal of human and animal-derived products from all steps of recombinant protein production.

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