The large amounts of recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) vector needed for clinical trials and eventual commercialization require robust, economical, reproducible, and scalable production processes compatible with current good manufacturing practice. rAAV produced using baculovirus and insect cells satisfies these conditions; however, recovering rAAV particles from 200-liter bioreactors is more complicated than bench-scale vector preparations. Using a variety of processing media, we developed a reliable and routine downstream procedure for rAAV production that is scalable from 0.02- to 200-liter cultures. To facilitate the upstream process, we adapted the titerless infected-cell preservation and scale-up process for rAAV production. Single-use aliquots of cryopreserved baculovirus-infected insect cells (BIIC) are thawed and added to the suspension culture to achieve the desired ratio of BIIC to rAAV-producer cells. By using conditions established with small-scale cultures, rAAV was produced in larger volume cultures. Strikingly consistent rAAV yields were attained in cultures ranging from 10 liters to 200 liters. Based on the final yield, each cell produced 18,000 ± 6,800 particles of purified rAAV in 10-, 20-, 100-, and 200-liter cultures. Thus, with an average cell density of 4.32 × 106 cells/ml, ≥1016 purified rAAV particles are produced from 100 to 200 liters. The downstream process resulted in about 20% recovery estimated from comparing the quantities of capsid protein antigen in the crude bioreactor material and in the final, purified product. The ease and reproducibility of rAAV production in 200-liter bioreactors suggest that the limit has not been reached, and 500-liter productions are planned.
Production of recombinant AAV in Sf9 insect cells infected with baculovirus is an established, economical, and scalable process. However, under serum-free clinical manufacturing conditions, cryopreserved baculovirus loses its ability to infect new batches of producer cells over time. This study by Cecchini and colleagues reports that cryopreserving insect cells infected with baculovirus provides a viable alternative for obtaining consistent levels of rAAV from any size culture.