Contract manufacturing organizations that manufacture traditional and biotech pharmaceutical products are responsible for performing investigations and reporting the results to their clients. But how do biologics consultants recognize the differences between performing an investigation of a biologic product versus pharmaceutical products?
The short answer is there is no process difference when performing deviation investigations for traditional pharmaceutical products vs. biologic products. The differences lie in the complexity of the manufacturing processes. Further, these are the variables that should be considered regarding what could impacted the deviation.
Chemical processes, although sometimes quite complex, often have fewer variables even though many of the categories are the same. For instance, when investigating an unknown impurity in a biological process from an oligopeptide fermentation process, the considerations are many. This often includes understanding the fermentation conditions, such as time, temperature, oxygen uptake and byproduct production.
Moreover, potential contamination of reactants can include master cell banks and fermentation reagents, equipment integrity, and overall performance. Further considerations for the downstream purification process variables and the effect of a final configuration (e.g., folding) also need to be considered.
The purpose of a deviation investigation is to determine why the deviation happened and what its impact was on the product quality. To determine the impact of the deviation on biotechnology engineering in general, it is critically important to find the deviation root cause.
Root Cause Analysis
Conducting a root cause analysis is especially important when considering the COVID-19 pandemic and global impact on biological matrix supply chain. Small cap or start up biologics companies have virtually no room for production errors in this type of environment. For example, patients may be waiting for biologic medications and any production interruption can impact more than just the manufacturer.
The process used in the industry to determine root cause is, of course, the investigation procedure. This procedure, regardless of whether the product is biotech or traditional, should require the investigator to review various production systems. Equally important, the system review during the investigation should help determine whether they were the cause of the deviation under investigation.
Every biologics consultant understands it is important to remember when performing an investigation to keep in mind a few general rules. Naturally, one size does not fit all. Simple errors require simple corrections while serious deviations require broader investigations. Validating the investigation is related not only to the seriousness of the deviation but also to the complexity of the factors that could influence the outcome.
The best tool to have during any investigation is inquisitiveness. Continuing to ask questions and avoid assumptions will lead to a better outcome. Using other tools, such and fishbone diagrams and determination of most probable number (MPN), are always encouraged. Undeniably, they do not take the place of a biologics consultant asking questions.
In performing an investigation, it is important for the biologic investigator to widen their performance perspective and look for ways to relate similar issues. The best way to ensure events are not related is to try and relate them, not the other way around. Keep in mind that human error is rarely a true root cause. There is usually something in the process that causes that human error.
The detailed investigation should include a review of various systems. The systems most often reviewed are equipment and machinery, the manufacturing process, the raw materials used in manufacturing, the specifications, the environment, and finally, the operators.
Finally, this is not to imply that these systems are the only areas you should look at during the investigation. These are simply the most probable areas where you will uncover the root cause of the deviation.
CAPA & Corrective Action
Each investigation must address the following elements: root cause, impact to the material or product, the immediate correction taken, the corrective action to prevent re-occurrence for specific product/operation, and the preventive action taken to prevent re-occurrence for all products/operations.
Vol. 28, No. 11
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