Downstream Bioprocess Development for a Scalable Production of Pharmaceutical-grade Plasmid DNA
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The potential application of a hydrogel-based strong anion-exchange (Q) membrane to purify plasmid DNAs was evaluated. The maximum binding capacity of plasmid DNA was estimated to be 12.4 mg/ml of membrane volume with a plasmid DNA recovery of ~ 90%, which is superior to other commercially available anion-exchange resins and membranes. The membrane was able to retain its structural integrity and performance after multiple cycles of usage (> 30 cycles). The inherent properties of plasmid DNA, membrane adsorbent, and the ionic environment on membrane performance were identified as the factors affecting membrane performance and their effects were systematically investigated. Plasmid DNAs with smaller tertiary structure have shorter dynamic radius and/or lowersurface charge densities, which tended to have a better adsorption and recovery than those with larger tertiary structure. Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (ESEM) revealed that the hydrogel structure is more porous on one side of membrane than the other, and higher plasmid DNA adsorption and recovery capacities were observed if the more porous side of the membrane was installed upward of flow in the chromatographic unit. ESEM also revealed improved pore distribution and increased membrane porosity if membrane was pre-equilibrated in the buffer solution for 16 hours. The development of better flow through channel in the hydrogel membrane upon extensive soaking further improved plasmid DNA adsorption and recovery capacities. The ionic environment affects the tertiary size of plasmid DNA; and the optimal operating pH of membrane chromatography was different for the plasmid DNAs investigated in this study. The relative contribution of these factors to improve membrane chromatography of plasmid DNAs was analyzed using statistical modeling. It was found that the adsorption of plasmid DNA was mainly affected by the available adsorptive area associated with membrane porosity, whereas the recovery of plasmid DNAs was mainly affected by the environmental pH. A novel, RNase-free, and potentially scalable bioprocess was synthesized using the hydrogel membrane as the technology platform for the manufacturing of pharmaceutical-grade plasmid DNA. High bioprocess recovery and product quality were primarily associated with the optimal integration of impurity removal by calcium chloride precipitation and anion-exchange membrane chromatography and the implementation of isopropanol precipitation as a coupling step between the two impurity-removing steps. Complete removal of total cellular RNA impurity was demonstrated without the use of animal-derived RNase. High-molecular-weight (HMW) RNA and genomic DNA (gDNA) were removed by selective precipitation using calcium chloride at an optimal concentration. Complete removal of the remaining low-molecular-weight (LMW) RNA was achieved by membrane chromatography using the high-capacity and high-productive hydrogel membrane. The simultaneous achievement of desalting, concentrating and buffer exchange by the coupling step of isopropanol precipitation and the high efficiency and resolution of DNA-RNA separation by anion-exchange membrane chromatography significantly reduced the operating complexity of the overall bioprocess, increased the overall recovery of plasmid DNA, and enhanced product quality by removing trace amounts of impurities of major concern for biomedical applications, such as gDNA, proteins, and endotoxin.