Chemical modification of recombinant therapeutic proteins with PEG has been shown to enhance the biological half-life. Here we assess the effect of PEGylation on FVIII. Full-length rFVIII bulk drug substance from protein-free fermentation (Advate process, Baxter) was conditioned into a buffer suitable for coupling to polyethylene glycol succinimidyl succinate (linear PEG, 5 kDa PEG chain length). PEG was covalently bound by amine coupling preferentially to lysine residues of FVIII at neutral pH. PEG was removed by ion-exchange chromatography and the PEG-FVIII derivative was concentrated by ultra-diafiltration. The conjugates thus obtained retained about 30–40% of the activity of non-modified rFVIII. The specific activity decreased with the amount of PEG linked to the FVIII molecule. In SDS-PAGE and immunoblot studies PEGylated rFVIII showed a band pattern similar to unmodified FVIII with full-length, heavy chain fragments of 180 kDa and 120 kDa and the light chain fragment of 80 kDa. PEGylation also occurred to a high extent in the B domain of FVIII. All bands appeared broadened due to the attachment of polymeric PEG. The maintenance of functionality of FVIII was demonstrated by its potential to be activated and inactivated by thrombin. In the assay PEGylated and unmodified FVIII were incubated with 1 nM thrombin. Sub-samples were drawn at intervals up to 40 minutes and added to a mixture of FIXa, FX, phospholipid vesicles and Ca2+ containing a thrombin inhibitor. After 3 minutes incubation at 37°C the amount of activated FX (FXa) was measured using a FXa-specific chromogenic substrate. Unmodified rFVIII showed a typical picture of an immediate increase in FXa activity and a subsequent decline with no further FXa generation after 15 minutes. PEGylated rFVIII was activated to the same extent as unmodified FVIII but the decay in FXa generation was slower and did not reach the zero level, even 40 minutes after incubation. The formation of the typical thrombin cleavage fragments, with unmodified as well as PEGylated rFVIII, was demonstrated in a Western blot analysis. The slower inactivation by thrombin was also seen there. The pharmacokinetic properties of PEGylated rFVIII compared with rFVIII were investigated in hemophilia A knock-out mice. Both preparations were applied at a dose of 200 IU rFVIII/kg and groups of mice (n=5) were exsanguinated at several time points up to 24 hours. Terminal half-life for PEGylated rFVIII was calculated at 4.9 hours compared with 1.9 hours for unmodified rFVIII in hemophilia A knock-out mice. AUC was approximately doubled. These results indicate that rFVIII can be biochemically modified with PEG whilst at least partly retaining its major functions, but at the same time prolonging its survival in the circulation of hemophilic mice.

Author notes

Disclosure:Employment: All authors are employed by Baxter BioScience.