Validation of immunoassays for bioanalysis: a pharmaceutical industry perspective

J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2000 Jan;21(6):1249-73. doi: 10.1016/s0731-7085(99)00244-7.


Immunoassays are bioanalytical methods in which quantitation of the analyte depends on the reaction of an antigen (analyte) and an antibody. Although applicable to the analysis of both low molecular weight xenobiotic and macromolecular drugs, these procedures currently find most consistent application in the pharmaceutical industry to the quantitation of protein molecules. Immunoassays are also frequently applied in such important areas as the quantitation of biomarker molecules which indicate disease progression or regression, and antibodies elicited in response to treatment with macromolecular therapeutic drug candidates. Currently available guidance documents dealing with the validation of bioanalytical methods address immunoassays in only a limited way. This review highlights some of the differences between immunoassays and chromatographic assays, and presents some recommendations for specific aspects of immunoassay validation. Immunoassay calibration curves are inherently nonlinear, and require nonlinear curve fitting algorithms for best description of experimental data. Demonstration of specificity of the immunoassay for the analyte of interest is critical because most immunoassays are not preceded by extraction of the analyte from the matrix of interest. Since the core of the assay is an antigen-antibody reaction, immunoassays may be less precise than chromatographic assays; thus, criteria for accuracy (mean bias) and precision, both in pre-study validation experiments and in the analysis of in-study quality control samples, should be more lenient than for chromatographic assays. Application of the SFSTP (Societe Francaise Sciences et Techniques Pharmaceutiques) confidence interval approach for evaluating the total error (including both accuracy and precision) of results from validation samples is recommended in considering the acceptance/rejection of an immunoassay procedure resulting from validation experiments. These recommendations for immunoassay validation are presented in the hope that their consideration may result in the production of consistently higher quality data from the application of these methods.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Calibration
  • Immunoassay / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity