Drug product development includes bulk drug product formulation, development of the final dosage form and process and fill-finish. The outputs generated during preformulation characterization—solubility and stability parameters and the target pH range—inform the formulation boundaries within which the optimal drug product composition will be determined. The drug product formulation is optimized in a series of experiments, typically using the Design of Experiment (DOE) approach, although discrete studies may also be conducted as appropriate, and the resulting samples are assessed under accelerated stress conditions to select the most stable formulations with sufficient solubility. Pace scientists assesses liquid and lyophilized formulations to enable informed decision-making and prevent loss of time if one of the strategies proves unsuccessful.

Vehicle Selection
The vehicles used are typically fairly simple, but the complex structure and composition of each biotherapeutic requires a tailored formulation to ensure optimum stability and product quality. The components and strategy are summarized in the following table.

Vehicle components typically evaluated

Vehicle Component
pH control for solubility and stability
Ionic strength modifier
Isotonicity and stability of the drug substance
Prevent aggregation and increase solubility
Bulking agents
Stability and improved appearance of lyophilized product
Antioxidants, cryoprotectants, etc. to improve stability in solution and/or lyophilized product

Stability Testing
Accelerated stability testing is used to differentiate prototype formulations with respect to stability and thus help define the optimal formulation composition. The manufacturing process may involve long-term storage of the bulk final formulation at either -20°C or -80°C; therefore, We assess frozen and freeze/thaw stability of prototype formulations as part of the formulation optimization. This testing also provides an opportunity to evaluate storage container compatibility and photostability. Real time stability testing under ICH guidelines is used evaluate a select few lead formulations to ensure advancement of appropriate stabilizing formulation and long term storage conditions.

Compatibility Testing
Testing of materials and equipment to assess material compatibility with biotherapeutic prior to patient administration in a clinical setting is essential in knowing dose and limiting immunogenicity concerns. Materials for IV bags, tubing, syringes and filters vary between application and due to chemical composition and manufacturing processes will have drastically different chemical and physical interaction with the therapeutic resulting in the possibility of destabilization.

Stability formulation graphic

Process Development
Our scientists at our development laboratory develop the final drug product formulation and the UF/DF process in parallel and in an iterative manner. Once both are established, the team characterizes the processes for manufacture of the bulk formulation and of the final dosage form for scale up and robustness, and transfers these to the manufacturing facility. Lastly, the manufactured materials are tested for release and placed on long-term stability within the Pace Oakdale, MN central GMP laboratory to support clinical trials and commercialization. Analytical methods, which are optimized and validated at the stage-appropriate time, support the biopharmaceutical formulation development and GMP testing activities.

Lyophilization Process Development
Solution stability is a common issue, so final dosage forms are frequently lyophilized products. Lyophilization improves the stability, may enable storage at ambient conditions and simplifies preparation of the administrable dosage form. Development of the lyophilization process requires a thorough characterization of the drug substance and lyophilates and is performed in an iterative manner in parallel with formulation development.

Our team of formulation experts design lyophilization cycles based on the thermal properties of the drug substance, the stability data and the formulation composition. The formulation composition impacts the development of the lyophilization cycle in that different materials require different temperatures, sublimation rates, and processing steps and duration. As reconstitution of the drug product is a key evaluation parameter, the speed and reproducibility of reconstitution will be assessed throughout process development. Various reconstitution media may be evaluated. Lyophilization process development also includes the selection of the appropriate container/closure system. We conduct compatibility studies with the selected container/closure system(s) on selection of final formulation and process parameters.

Pace optimizes the lyophilization process using both the DOE approach and SMART technology, based on the observations of the preliminary lyophilization runs and the formulation optimization results. Variables that affect the process, and thus the quality and stability of the resultant lyophilate, are the temperature and duration of the steps in the lyophilization cycle, as well as the temperature of the sample solution. The vehicle may be re-evaluated. Typical factors that are investigated during the process optimization stage are solution temperature and treatment prior to lyophilization, time and temperature of lyophilization cycle steps, and the impact of moisture content on product stability. The ideal range for moisture content must be determined and maintained during storage to prevent degradation, particularly for formulations without stabilizers. Based on these results, we optimize the freezing, annealing, primary drying and secondary drying process parameters and establishes operational parameters for technology transfer to the manufacturing facility.

Webinar: Lyophilized Drug Product Development

Overview:  In an effort to improve stability and shelf life of a drug, the active ingredients in many therapeutics are typically mixed with a number of other inactive chemicals.

The end result of this process, called formulation, is commonly a liquid solution or suspension. However, for certain drugs, which are prone to degradation or aggregation, alternative processes, like freeze-drying, are effective to improve stability.

Freeze-drying, also called lyophilization, is a technique used to generate dry drug products with improved stability and acceptable shelf life.

In this webinar you will learn:

  • A general understanding of the use and advantages of the lyophilization process
  • The lyophilization process, abilities and limitations
  • The process by which a freeze-dried pharmaceutical product is developed

Who should attend:

  • Small Molecule Drug Product Development
  • Biologics Drug Product Development
  • Chemical Biology
  • Biotech startups



Mike Auerbach
American Pharmaceutical Review




Presenter Luca Ogunleye, PhD

Associate Director, Pharmaceutical Development Pace Analytical Life Sciences, LLC