A direct droplet digital PCR method for quantification of residual DNA in protein drugs produced in yeast cells

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Yeast cells, in particular Pichia pastoris, are the host cell of choice for manufacturing several protein therapeutic agents in the biopharmaceutical industry. Host cell DNA is an impurity of such manufacturing process and the residual DNA after the purification process of the drug must be monitored to ensure drug purity and safety. Currently, real-time PCR (qPCR) based methods are widely employed for quantification of host residual DNA. At the same time the digital PCR technology is coming into prominence with promise of higher sensitivity. Here we report a method where the protein drug is directly added to the droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) reaction including yeast-specific primers and fluorescent-tagged probe and nanoliter-sized droplets are generated. The droplets are then subjected to PCR followed by analysis for fluorescence. This Pichia residual DNA direct ddPCR method for yeast can be used to test higher amount of drug compared to the corresponding qPCR method thereby increasing sensitivity, retaining high precision and accuracy and has a wide linear range of determination. The method has been successfully tested with three batches of a recombinant human IgG1-Fc-based drug (RP-1) and with commercially available human insulin, both manufactured in yeast cells. This method simplifies the residual DNA quantification protocol by eliminating DNA extraction or protease digestion and eliminates use of DNA standards in day-to-day running of the method.

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