High-concentration protein formulations: How high is high?
High-concentration protein formulation (HCPF) is a term that is used to describe protein formulations, mostly monoclonal antibody (mAb) drugs, at high protein concentration. The concentration is rarely defined, with typical ranges varying between 50 and 150 mg/ml for mAbs. The term HCPF is meant to include and express specific solution properties of formulations that are prone to appear at high protein concentrations such as high viscosity, high opalescence, phase separation, gel formation or the increased propensity for protein particle formation. Thus the term HCPF can be understood as a descriptor of protein formulations, usually at high protein (monoclonal antibody) concentrations, which have specific solution, stability and colloidal properties that differ from formulations at low protein concentration (e.g. at 10 mg/ml).
The current paper highlights in brief the development challenges that might occur for high-concentration protein/monoclonal antibody formulations. In particular, the maximum concentration regimes achievable in HCPF remained unclear. Based on geometrical considerations involving packing of monoclonal antibodies in a lattice we map out a maximum concentration range that might be theoretically achievable. Different geometrical assumptions and packing models are compared and their relevance is critically discussed, in particular concerning the influence of the physicochemical properties of the monoclonal antibodies on their solubility, which is neglected in the simple geometrical model. According to our estimates, monoclonal antibody concentration above 500 mg/ml will be very challenging to achieve. Our results have implications for setting up realistic drug product development strategies and for preparing convincing drug target product profiles for development.