Joint research paper on half-life extension of anticalins published in Frontiers of Pharmacology

November 18, 2021

Pharmacokinetic Engineering of OX40-Blocking Anticalin Proteins Using Monomeric Plasma Half-Life Extension Domains

Martin Siegemund, Prajakta Oak, Eva-Maria Hansbauer, Andrea Allersdorfer, Karoline Utschick, Alexandra Winter, Christina Grasmüller, Gunther Galler, Jan-Peter Mayer, Benjamin Weiche, Josef Prassler, Roland E Kontermann, Christine Rothe


Anticalin® proteins have been proven as versatile clinical stage biotherapeutics. Due to their small size (∼20 kDa), they harbor a short intrinsic plasma half-life which can be extended, e.g., by fusion with IgG or Fc. However, for antagonism of co-immunostimulatory Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily (TNFRSF) members in therapy of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, a monovalent, pharmacokinetically optimized Anticalin protein format that avoids receptor clustering and therefore potential activation is favored. We investigated the suitability of an affinity-improved streptococcal Albumin-Binding Domain (ABD) and the engineered Fab-selective Immunoglobulin-Binding Domain (IgBD) SpGC3Fab for plasma Half-Life Extension (HLE) of an OX40-specific Anticalin and bispecific Duocalin proteins, neutralizing OX40 and a second co-immunostimulatory TNFRSF member. The higher affinity of ABD fusion proteins to human serum albumin (HSA) and Mouse Serum Albumin (MSA), with a 4 to 5-order of magnitude lower KD compared with the binding affinity of IgBD fusions to human/mouse IgG, translated into longer terminal plasma half-lives (t 1/2). Hence, the anti-OX40 Anticalin-ABD protein reached t 1/2 values of ∼40 h in wild-type mice and 110 h in hSA/hFcRn double humanized mice, in contrast to ∼7 h observed for anti-OX40 Anticalin-IgBD in wild-type mice. The pharmacokinetics of an anti-OX40 Anticalin-Fc fusion protein was the longest in both models (t 1/2 of 130 h and 146 h, respectively). Protein formats composed of two ABDs or IgBDs instead of one single HLE domain clearly showed longer presence in the circulation. Importantly, Anticalin-ABD and -IgBD fusions showed OX40 receptor binding and functional competition with OX40L-induced cellular reactivity in the presence of albumin or IgG, respectively. Our results suggest that fusion to ABD or IgBD can be a versatile platform to tune the plasma half-life of Anticalin proteins in response to therapeutic needs. 


DOI: 10.3389/fphar.2021.759337

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