Pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and physiologically-based pharmacokinetic modelling of monoclonal antibodies

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2013 Feb;52(2):83-124. doi: 10.1007/s40262-012-0027-4.


Development of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and their functional derivatives represents a growing segment of the development pipeline in the pharmaceutical industry. More than 25 mAbs and derivatives have been approved for a variety of therapeutic applications. In addition, around 500 mAbs and derivatives are currently in different stages of development. mAbs are considered to be large molecule therapeutics (in general, they are 2-3 orders of magnitude larger than small chemical molecule therapeutics), but they are not just big chemicals. These compounds demonstrate much more complex pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic behaviour than small molecules. Because of their large size and relatively poor membrane permeability and instability in the conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, parenteral administration is the most usual route of administration. The rate and extent of mAb distribution is very slow and depends on extravasation in tissue, distribution within the particular tissue, and degradation. Elimination primarily happens via catabolism to peptides and amino acids. Although not definitive, work has been published to define the human tissues mainly involved in the elimination of mAbs, and it seems that many cells throughout the body are involved. mAbs can be targeted against many soluble or membrane-bound targets, thus these compounds may act by a variety of mechanisms to achieve their pharmacological effect. mAbs targeting soluble antigen generally exhibit linear elimination, whereas those targeting membrane-bound antigen often exhibit non-linear elimination, mainly due to target-mediated drug disposition (TMDD). The high-affinity interaction of mAbs and their derivatives with the pharmacological target can often result in non-linear pharmacokinetics. Because of species differences (particularly due to differences in target affinity and abundance) in the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of mAbs, pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modelling of mAbs has been used routinely to expedite the development of mAbs and their derivatives and has been utilized to help in the selection of appropriate dose regimens. Although modelling approaches have helped to explain variability in both pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of these drugs, there is a clear need for more complex models to improve understanding of pharmacokinetic processes and pharmacodynamic interactions of mAbs with the immune system. There are different approaches applied to physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modelling of mAbs and important differences between the models developed. Some key additional features that need to be accounted for in PBPK models of mAbs are neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn; an important salvage mechanism for antibodies) binding, TMDD and lymph flow. Several models have been described incorporating some or all of these features and the use of PBPK models are expected to expand over the next few years.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / chemistry
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulins / pharmacology
  • Models, Biological*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunoglobulins