Details of the deal have not been disclosed but this publication understands that the US drugmaker will use the Potelligent CHOK1SV host cell line to produce supplies of its candidate monoclonal antibody (MAb) products for research.
The licensed technology combines a production platform created by Kyowa Hakko Kirin’s BioWa unit with Lonza’s GE Gene expression system and high-yield CHOK1SV cell line that has been developed in a collaboration that began in 2007.
Lonza spokesman Dominik Werner told BioPharma-Reporter.com that in addition to being highly productive for biomanufacturing – the firms claim each CHOK1SV cell can yield 20 to 50pg of antibody per day - the technology also produces molecules that are uniquely potent.
“Antibodies produced by the cell line can exert potent cytotoxic effects even when their target antigen density is low and retain all the other desirable features of antibodies such as Protein A binding.”
The Potelligent tech is based on the principle that antibodies containing a lower amount of fucose bind immune system cells more effectively – and are therefore more potent - than those that contain higher amounts of the sugar.
To achieve this the scientists created a modified version of the Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cell line that lacks the enzyme fucosyltransferase, which is responsible for adding fucose units to antibodies.
According to BioWa Genentech, Biogen Idec, Medarex, MedImmune and Takeda are all licensed to use the Potelligent technology.
The other feature of the cell line tech licensed by Pfizer is Lonza’s GS expression system. The enzyme glutamine synthetase (GS) is responsible for the biosynthesis of glutamine from glutamate and ammonium and is the only pathway mammalian cells have that produces glutamine.
Cells lacking GS can only survive if glutamine is added to the culture medium, which gives BioPharmas a way of ensuring that only the those that contain specific genes – in Pfizer’s case one encoding an MAb it is developing - are able to grow.
Cell culture focus
News of the Pfizer licensing deal comes too soon after Lonza and Teva pulled the plug on their biosimilars joint venture to be anything other than a coincidence, but it does fit with the Swiss supplier's plan to refocus post break-up.
Speaking last week COO Stephan Kutzer who said: “We intend in the future to limit our role by focusing on our core expertise in the areas of contract manufacturing and cell line development.”
The announcement also coincides with news that Pfizer plans to restructure its operations into three new units. The US drugmaker will set up one division focused on products about to go off patent, one that will manage drugs with patents beyond 2015 and one that will sell cancer drugs and vaccines.
The firm’s antibody development activities are likely to be focused in the either of the latter two units.