Lyophilization of NOTA-sdAbs: First step towards a cold diagnostic kit for 68Ga-labeling

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Lyophilization is commonly used in the production of pharmaceutical compounds to increase the stability of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) by removing solvents. This study investigates the possibility to lyophilize an anti-HER2 and an anti-MMR single-domain antibody fragment (sdAb)-based precursor as a first step in the development of a diagnostic kit for PET imaging.

METHODS: NOTA-sdAb precursors have been lyophilized with the following formulation: 100 µg NOTA-sdAb in 0.1 M NaOAc (NaOAc), 5% (w/v%) mannitol-sucrose mix at a 2:1 ratio and 0.1 mg/mL polysorbate 80. During development of the formulation and drying cycle, factors such as cake appearance, glass transition temperature and residual moisture were analyzed to ensure qualitative and stable lyophilized samples. Stability studies of lyophilized precursor were conducted up to 18 months after storage at 2-8 °C by evaluating the precursor integrity, aggregation, functionality and 68Ga-labeling efficiency. A comparative biodistribution study (lyophilized vs non-lyophilized precursor) was conducted in wild type mice (n = 3) and in tumor bearing mice (n = 6).

RESULTS: The lyophilized NOTA-anti-HER2 precursor shows consistent stability data in vitro for up to 12 months at 2-8 °C in three separate batches, with results indicating stability even for up to T18m. No aggregation, degradation or activity loss was observed. Radiochemical purity after 68Ga-labeling is consistent over a period of 12 months (RCP ≥ 95% at T12m). In vivo biodistribution analyses show a typical [68Ga]Ga-NOTA-anti-HER2 sdAb distribution profile and a comparable tumor uptake for the lyophilized compound vs non-lyophilized (5.5% vs 5.7 %IA/g, respectively). In vitro results of lyophilized NOTA-anti-MMR precursor indicates stability for up to 18 months, while in vivo data show a comparable tumor uptake (2.5% vs 2.8 %IA/g, respectively) and no significant difference in kidney retention (49.4% vs 47.5 %IA/g, respectively).

CONCLUSION: A formulation and specific freeze-drying cycle were successfully developed to lyophilize NOTA-sdAb precursors for long-term storage at 2-8 °C. In vivo data show no negative impact of the lyophilization process on the in vivo behavior or functionality of the lyophilized precursor. These results highlight the potential to develop a kit for the preparation of 68Ga-sdAb-based radiopharmaceuticals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-204
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • Cold kit
  • Gallium-68
  • Lyophilization
  • PET imaging
  • Radiopharmaceuticals


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