Determination of Linearized pDNA Template in mRNA Production Process Using HPLC

Marta Leban, Tina Vodopivec Seravalli, Martina Hauer, Ernst Böhm, Nina Mencin, Sandra Potušek, Andrej Thompson, Jurij Trontelj, Aleš Štrancar & Rok Sekirnik

Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, March 2024

The recent clinical success of messenger RNA (mRNA) technology in managing the Covid pandemic has triggered an unprecedented innovation in production and analytical technologies for this therapeutic modality. mRNA is produced by enzymatic transcription of plasmid DNA (pDNA) using polymerase in a cell-free process of in vitro transcription. After transcription, the pDNA is considered a process-related impurity and is removed from the mRNA product enzymatically, chromatographically, or by precipitation. Regulatory requirements are currently set at 10 ng of template pDNA per single human dose, which typically ranges between 30 and 100 µg. Here, we report the development of a generic procedure based on enzymatic digestion and chromatographic separation for the determination of residual pDNA in mRNA samples, with a limit of quantification of 2.3 ng and a limit of detection of less than 0.1 ng. The procedure is based on enzymatic degradation of mRNA and anion exchange HPLC separation, followed by quantification of residual pDNA with a chromatographic method that is already widely adopted for pDNA quality analytics. The procedure has been successfully applied for in-process monitoring of three model mRNAs and a self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) and can be considered a generic substitution for qPCR in mRNA in-process control analytical strategy, with added benefits that it is more cost-efficient, faster, and sequence agnostic.

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