Recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO) has been used therapeutically for more than two decades in the treatment of anemia. Although EPO is generally well tolerated, in rare cases, patients have developed anti-EPO antibodies that can negatively impact safety and efficacy. Therefore, the detection of antibodies against EPO is a regulatory requirement during clinical development and post-approval. Although it is a rare phenomenon, antibody-mediated pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) is a serious complication than can result from antibodies that develop and neutralize EPO as well as endogenous erythropoietin. Currently, there are no universally accepted analytical methods to detect the full repertoire of binding and neutralizing anti-EPO antibodies. A number of different methods that differ in terms of antibodies detected and assay sensitivities are used by different manufacturers. There is also a lack of antibody reference reagents, and therefore no consistent basis for detecting and measuring anti-EPO antibodies. Reference reagents, with established ranges, are essential to monitor the safety and efficacy of all erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) structurally related to human erythropoietin. This is the first report of the development and characterization of a panel of fully human antibodies against EPO suitable as reference reagents. The characteristics of antibodies within the panel were selected based on the prevalence of non-neutralizing IgG and IgM antibodies in non-PRCA patients and neutralizing IgG antibodies, including IgG1 and IgG4, in antibody-mediated PRCA subjects. The reference panel includes antibodies of high- and low-affinity with binding specificity to neutralizing and non-neutralizing erythropoietin epitopes. The subclass of human antibodies in this reference panel includes an IgG1, IgG2, and IgG4, as well as an IgM isotype. This antibody panel could help select appropriate immunogenicity assays, guide validation, and monitor assay performance. Further, this human anti-ESA antibody panel may help set the limits of each assay platform in terms of the full repertoire of the anti-ESA antibodies, and may facilitate standardization of ESA immunogenicity reporting across assay platforms.
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