validation Archives - European Industrial Pharmacists Group (EIPG)

European Council’s conclusions on the European Innovation Agenda and research infrastructures


by Giuliana Miglierini The European socio-economic framework is undergoing a profound transformative moment, as a result of the new vision impressed by the von der Leyen Commission, with its goals in the field of the Digital and Green transitions. The Read more

EMA’s new Quality Innovation Expert Group (QIG)


by Giuliana Miglierini Innovative approaches to the development manufacturing and quality control of medicines are becoming the new paradigm to be faced both from an industrial and regulatory perspective. Not only innovative technologies for delivery, such as mRNA vaccines, many Read more

ICMRA report on best practices against antimicrobial resistance


by Giuliana Miglierini Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the consequence of mutations that allow microbes to survive pharmacological treatment. Resistant strains can often be tackled only by a limited number of therapeutic options: according to a systematic analysis published in The Read more

Comments to the draft ICH guidelines Q2(R2) and ICH Q14

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by Giuliana Miglierini

The public consultation on the two draft guidelines ICH Q2(R2) on the validation of analytical procedures and ICH Q14 on analytical procedure development closed at the end of July 2022.The European Medicines Agency published in August two documents summarising comments received (ICH Q2(R2) and ICH Q14).

Many industrial organisations contributed to the consultation with their point of view on the two draft guidelines. In the next phase of the procedure (step 3 of the ICH process), comments will be reviewed by the ICH Q2(R2)/ICH Q14 Expert Working Group (EWG). We summarise for readers some of the main comments received from industrial stakeholders. A webinar organised byEIPG on the implications and opportunities of the revision of ICHQ2 and the ICHQ14 was presented by Dr Phil Borman, Senior Fellow & Director Product Quality at GSK on 15thJune 2022 (recording and slides are available at the webinars page of EIPG’s website).

Key principles from the EIPG’s webinar

During the webinar, Dr Borman gave a comprehensive picture of the process of Analytical Quality by Design (QbD). The systematic approach to method development starts with the identification of the predefined objectives (Analytical Target Profile, ATP). The understanding and control of the analytical procedure are at the core of the process, and they should be pursued according to principles of ICH Q8. Analytical QbD covers both the drug product (ICH Q8) and the active ingredient (Q11). This means that a similar framework to ICH Q8 and Q11 can be applied also for analytical procedures. The ATP is made up of the sum of performance characteristics, precision, range (including sensitivity), and bias/accuracy.

According to ICH Q2(R1), published in 1994, the objective of validation of an analytical procedure is to demonstrate its suitability for the intended scope. Revision of both guidelines started in 2019, based on a Concept paper published in 2018. ICH Q2(R2) covers the validation of the analytical protocols and reports, while ICH Q14 refers to the development of the analytical procedure and its lifecycle management.

Key features of the new drafts include the fact that no additional expectations / mandated requirements for pharmaceutical analytical scientists are present, the possible use of “enhanced approaches” and the clear link between performance characteristics and their related criteria and the validation study. The Q2(R2) guideline shall apply to both small molecules and biologics and includes the possibility to use prior knowledge (e.g., from development or previous validation) as a part of the validation exercise. Assay for the determination of robustness can be conducted, for example, during development. Other key features highlighted by Dr Borman include the possible use of Platform analytical procedures to reduce the number of validation tests and the possibility to use any type of calibration model (including multivariate calibration).

The expected benefits refer to the possibility to reduce the existing burden associated with post-approval changes to analytical procedures and the use of Established Conditions.

As Dr Borman explained, the ATP could form the basis of a Post Approval Change Management Protocol (PACMP), thus favouring the reporting of changes between technologies at a lower reporting category. A more performance driven and flexible approach to validation is expected following the entry into force of the new ICH Q2(R2) guideline. The selection of validation tests shall be based on the concrete objective of the analytical procedure.

Comments to ICH Q2(R2)

The overview of comments relative to the draft ICH Q2(R2) published by EMA consists of a 72-page document, divided into a first section containing general comments and a second focused on specific comments.

APIC, representing manufacturers of active ingredients and API intermediates, focused on the fact that “uncertainty is not part of the validation whereas it has a reality in practice and part of the discussion between laboratories”. The measurement of uncertainty is also considered linked to the Total analytical error (TAE), a concept that would not be adequately addressed in the guideline.

EFPIA, on behalf of the biopharmaceutical industry, asked for a better connection between the two guidelines ICH Q2 and Q14, starting from the alignment of the respective titles. Improved consistency in the use of some terms was also suggested (e.g. ‘performance criteria’). Improved clarity and greater flexibility should be applied to the concept of working and reportable ranges. The association also asked to provide more examples for multivariate analytical procedures using different models to facilitate the understanding of their validation and lifecycle management.

Medicines for Europe, representing manufacturers of generic and biosimilars, asked to provide a more specific methodology for reportable range validation. The association requested some clarification about the possibility of using the minimal requirements of the performance characteristics for the addendum method validation strategy.

The European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM) focused its intervention of radiopharmaceuticals, a class of substances that should be considered a special case and therefore be excluded from the scope of the guidance. The request assumes that other approaches different that those discussed may be applicable and “acceptable with appropriate science-based justification”. The same request also applies to the draft ICH Q14 guideline. The EANM contribution also highlighted aspects specific to radiopharmaceuticals that should be considered, including the strength of the radioactivity content, the unavailability of radioactive standards of the active substance, and the need of specific techniques for radioactivity determination. The suggestion is to refer to the specific guideline on the validation of analytical methods for radiopharmaceuticals jointly developed by the EANM and the EDQM.

According to the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), there are many sections of the draft Q2(R2) guideline that may pose challenges due to lack of alignment and fragmentation of contents. A revision of the structure is thus suggested, together with the harmonisation of terms with those listed in the Glossary. ISPE also highlighted the opportunity to better clarify the distinction between validation elements and recommended data applicable to multivariate analytical procedures vs traditional analytical methods.

The ECA Foundation/European QP Association reported a very critical position on the two draft guidelines, clearly stating that ICH Q2 and Q14 should integrate with one another. According to ECA, the corresponding US guideline “USP <1220> is far superior”. Many of the points reported above with respect to the general section of the overview are discussed in more deep detail within the part of the document listing specific comments.

Comments to ICH Q14

The same structure of the document also applies to the 54-page overview summarising the results of the consultation on ICH Q14 guideline.

According to the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA), representing manufacturers of plasma-derived and recombinant analog therapies, the draft would be too focused on chemical methods, with just a residual attention to biological methods.

APIC asked for improved discussion of the capability (and uncertainty) of the method of analysis, a fundamental parameter to assess its appropriateness for the intended use within the defined specification range. According to the association, more specific reference should be made in relation to development data that can be/cannot be used as validation data.

ISPE suggested adopting a more detailed title for the guideline; something similar has also been suggested by EFPIA. ISPE also addressed the issue of reproducibility, that may be influenced by external factors across multiple laboratories. Multivariate analysis is also discussed, suggesting adopting additional requirements for the multivariate elements while maintaining the same approach to other analytical procedures.

EFPIA would prefer to avoid the use of the term “minimal” in favour of other expressions denoted by a less negative connotation (e.g., traditional, suitable/historic, classical, fit for purpose) with reference to the validation approach. The availability of training case studies is considered important to support the alignment between industry and regulatory agencies on expectations for regulatory change management, especially with reference to multivariate models. EFPIA asked that the paragraph discussing the relationship between ICH Q2 and Q14 should not address what should be submitted to regulatory agencies. Discussion of OMICS methods used in quality control of complex biological products should be included in the annexes.

ISPE asked to avoid reference to geographic regions, as the final goal is to reach harmonisation. A clearer statement of the scope would be advisable (a possible example is provided), as well as a better linkage to the ICH Q12 guideline on pharmaceutical product lifecycle management.

Specific comments include the suggestion of the PPTA to define all acronyms at first use in text and to include them in the Glossary. According to Medicines for Europe, it would be advisable to add characterisational assays (other than release/stability) for biosimilars. Furthermore, the scope of the guideline should focus on the risk assessment and availability of the analytical knowledge needed to select the most appropriate method for a specific application. Activities deemed to the submission of the regulatory CTD dossier should remain confined to the complementaryQ2 guideline.


A concept paper on the revision of Annex 11

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This concept paper addresses the need to update Annex 11, Computerised Systems, of the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guideline. Annex 11 is common to the member states of the European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) as well as to the participating authorities of the Pharmaceutical Inspection Co-operation Scheme (PIC/S). The current version was issued in 2011 and does not give sufficient guidance within a number of areas. Since then, there has been extensive progress in the use of new technologies.

Reasons for the revision of Annex 11 include but are not limited to the following (in non-prioritised order):

  • The document should be updated to replace relevant parts of the Q&A on Annex 11 and the Q&A on Data Integrity on the EMA GMP website
  • An update of the document with regulatory expectations to ‘digital transformation’ and similar newer concepts will be considered
  • References should be made to ICH Q9
  • The meaning of the term ‘validation’ (and ‘qualification’), needs to be clarified
  • Guidelines should be included for classification of critical data and critical systems
  • Important expectations to backup processes are missing e.g. to what is covered by a backup, what types of backups are made, how often backups are made, how long backups are, retained, which media is used for backups, or where backups are kept
  • The concept and purpose of audit trail review is inadequately described
  • Guidelines for acceptable frequency of audit trail review should be provided
  • There is an urgent need for regulatory guidance and expectations to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models in critical GMP applications as industry is already implementing this technology
  • FDA has released a draft guidance on Computer Software Assurance for Production and Quality System Software (CSA). This guidance and any implication will be considered with regards to aspects of potential regulatory relevance for GMP Annex 11

The current Annex 11 does not give sufficient guidance within a number of areas already covered, and other areas, which are becoming increasingly important to GMP, are not covered at all. The revised text will expand the guidance given in the document and embrace the application of new technologies which have gained momentum since the release of the existing version.

If possible, the revised document will include guidelines for acceptance of AI/ML algorithms used in critical GMP applications. This is an area where regulatory guidance is highly needed as this is not covered by any existing regulatory guidance in the pharmaceutical industry and as pharma companies are already implementing such algorithms.

The draft concept paper approved by EMA GMP/GDP IWG (October 2022) and by PIC/S (November 2022) and released for a two-months consultation until 16 January 2023.


Automation of aseptic manufacturing

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by Giliana Miglierini

The pharmaceutical industry is often the last industrial sector to implement many new manufacturing and methodological procedures. One typical example is Lean production, those concepts were developed in the automotive industry well before their adoption in the pharmaceutical field. The same may also apply to automation: it appears time is now mature to see an increasing role of automated operations in the critical field of aseptic manufacturing, suggests an article by Jennifer Markarian on PharmTech.com.

The main added value of automation is represented by the possibility to greatly reduce the risk of contamination associated to the presence of human operators in cleanrooms. A goal of high significance for the production of biotech, advanced therapies, which are typically parenterally administered. Automation is already taking place in many downstream processes, for example for fill/finish operations, packaging or warehouse management.

The advantages of the automation of aseptic processes

The biggest challenges engineers face when designing isolated fill lines are fitting the design into a small, enclosed space; achieving good operator ergonomics; and ensuring all systems and penetrations are leak-tight and properly designed for cleanability and [hydrogen peroxide] sterilization,” said Joe Hoff, CEO of robotics manufacturer AST, interviewed by Jennifer Markarian.

The great attention to the development of the Contamination Control Strategy (CCS) – which represents the core of sterile manufacturing, as indicated by the new Annex 1 to GMPs – may benefit from the insertion of robots and other automation technologies within gloveless isolators and other types of closed systems. This passage aims to completely exclude the human presence from the cleanroom and is key to achieve a completely segregated manufacturing environment, thus maximising the reduction of potential risks of contamination.

The new approach supports the pharmaceutical industry also in overcoming the often observed reluctance to innovate manufacturing processes: automation is now widely and positively perceived by regulators, thus contributing to lowering the regulatory risks linked to the submission of variations to the CMC part of the authorisation dossiers. High costs for the transitions to automated manufacturing – that might include the re-design of the facilities and the need to revalidate the processes – still represent significant barriers to the diffusion of these innovative methodologies for pharmaceutical production.

The elimination of human intervention in aseptic process was also a requirement of FDA’s 2004 Guideline on Sterile Drug Products Produced by Aseptic Processing and of the related report on Pharmaceutical CGMPs for the 21st Century: A Risk-Based Approach. According to Morningstar, for example, the FDA has recently granted approval for ADMA Biologics’ in-house aseptic fill-finish machine, an investment aimed to improve gross margins, consistency of supply, cycle times from inventory to production, and control of batch release.

Another advantage recalled by the PharmTech’s article is the availability of highly standardized robotics systems, thus enabling a great reduction of the time needed for setting up the new processes. The qualification of gloves’ use and cleaning procedures, for example, is no longer needed, impacting on another often highly critical step of manufacturing.

Easier training and higher reproducibility of operative tasks are other advantages offered by robots: machines do not need repeated training and testing for verification of the adherence to procedures, for example, thus greatly simplifying the qualification and validation steps required by GMPs. Nevertheless, training of human operators remains critical with respect to the availability of adequate knowledge to operate and control the automated systems, both from the mechanical and electronic point of view.

Possible examples of automation in sterile manufacturing

Robots are today able to perform a great number of complex, repetitive procedures with great precision, for example in the handling of different formats of vials and syringes. Automatic weighing stations are usually present within the isolator, so to weight empty and full vials in order to automatically adjust the filling process.

This may turn useful, for example, with respect to the production of small batches of advanced therapy medicinal products to be used in the field of precision medicine. Robots can also be automatically cleaned and decontaminated along with other contents of the isolator, simplifying the procedures that have to be run between different batches of production and according to the “Cleaning In Place” (CIP) and “Sterilisation In Place” (SIP) methodologies.

The design and mechanical characteristics of the robots (e.g. the use of brushless servomotors) make the process more smooth and reproducible, as mechanical movements are giving rise to a reduced number of particles.

Examples of gloveless fully sealed isolators inclusive of a robotic, GMP compliant arm were already presented in 2015 for the modular small-scale manufacturing of personalised, cytotoxic materials used for clinical trials.

Maintenance of the closed system may be also, at least partly, automated, for example by mean of haptic devices operated by remote to run the procedure the robotic arm needs to perform. Implementation of PAT tools and artificial intelligence algorithms offers opportunities for the continuous monitoring of the machinery, thus preventing malfunctioning and potential failures. The so gathered data may also prove very useful to run simulations of the process and optimization of the operative parameters. Artificial intelligence may be in place to run the automated monitoring and to detect defective finished products.

Automated filling machines allow for a high flexibility of batch’s size, from few hundreds of vials per hour up to some thousands. The transfer of containers along the different stations of the process is also automated. The implementation of this type of processes is usually associated with the use of pre-sterilised, single-use materials automatically inserted within the isolator (e.g. primary containers and closures, beta bags and disposal waste bags).

Automation may also refer to microbial monitoring and particle sampling operations to be run into cleanrooms, in line with the final goal to eliminate the need of human intervention.

Comparison of risks vs manual processes

A comparison of risks relative to various types of aseptic preparation processes typically run within a hospital pharmacy and performed, respectively, using a robot plus peristaltic pump or a manual process was published in 2019 in Pharm. Technol. in Hospital Pharmacy.

Production “on demand” of tailor-made preparations has been identified by authors as the more critical process, for which no significant difference in productivity is present between the manual and automated process. The robotic process proved to be superior for standardised preparations either from ready to use solutions or mixed cycles. A risk analysis run using the Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) showed a lower level of associated risk.