Scientific review and recommendations on preclinical cardiovascular safety evaluation of biologics

J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods. 2008 Sep-Oct;58(2):72-6. doi: 10.1016/j.vascn.2008.04.001. Epub 2008 Apr 18.


Biological therapeutic agents (biologicals), such as monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), are increasingly important in the treatment of human disease, and many types of biologicals are in clinical development. During preclinical drug development, cardiovascular safety pharmacology studies are performed to assess cardiac safety in accord with the ICH S7A and S7B regulations that guide these studies. The question arises, however, whether or not it is appropriate to apply these guidelines, which were devised primarily to standardize small molecule drug testing, to the cardiovascular evaluation of biologicals. We examined the scientific literature and formed a consensus of scientific opinion to determine if there is a rational basis for conducting an in vitro hERG assay as part of routine preclinical cardiovascular safety testing for biologicals. We conclude that mAb therapeutics have very low potential to interact with the extracellular or intracellular (pore) domains on hERG channel and, therefore, are highly unlikely to inhibit hERG channel activity based on their targeted, specific binding properties. Furthermore, mAb are large molecules (>140,000 Da) that cannot cross plasma membranes and therefore would be unable to access and block the promiscuous inner pore of the hERG channel, in contrast with typical small molecule drugs. Consequently, we recommend that it is not appropriate to conduct an in vitro hERG assay as part of a preclinical strategy for assessing the heart rate corrected QT interval (QTc) prolongation risk of mAbs and other types of biologicals. It is more appropriate to assess QTc risk by integrating cardiovascular endpoints into repeat-dose general toxicology studies performed in an appropriate non-rodent species. These recommendations should help shape future regulatory strategy and discussions for the cardiovascular safety pharmacology testing of mAbs as well as other biologicals and provide guidance for the preclinical cardiovascular evaluation of such agents.

MeSH terms

  • Biological Products / adverse effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Humans


  • Biological Products