There is growing interest in the development of fully integrated and continuous biomanufacturing processes for the production of monoclonal antibody products. A recent study has demonstrated the feasibility of using a two-stage countercurrent diafiltration (DF) process for continuous product formulation, but this system did not provide sufficient levels of buffer exchange for most applications. The objective of this study was to design and test a three-stage countercurrent DF system that could achieve at least 99.9% buffer exchange over 24 hr of continuous operation. Experimental data were obtained using concentrated solutions of human immunoglobulin G as a model protein, with the extent of vitamin B12 removal used to track the extent of DF. Pall Cadence™ inline concentrators with Delta 30 kD regenerated cellulose membranes were used in the three stages to achieve high conversion in a single pass. The three-stage system showed stable operation with >99.9% vitamin B12 removal and a minimal increase in pressure over the full 24 hr. Modules were effectively cleaned using sodium hydroxide, with nearly complete recovery of water permeability. A simple economic analysis was presented that accounts for the trade-offs between quantity of buffer used and membrane costs for this type of countercurrent staged DF process. The results provide important insights to the design and operation of a continuous process for antibody formulation.
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