Safety testing of cell-based medicinal products: Opportunities for the monocyte activation test for pyrogens

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Thomas Montag
Ingo Spreitzer
Bettina Löschner
Uwe Unkelbach
Egbert Flory
Ralf Sanzenbacher
Michael Schwanig
Christian K. Schneider


The European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA) pointed out the need to involve authorities throughout the process of validation and legal acceptance of alternatives to animal experiments. The Paul-Ehrlich- Institute (PEI), Federal Agency for Sera and Vaccines, is the national competent authority in Germany which is responsible for the quality and safety of biologicals including blood and cell-based products. This paper is intended to contribute to the discussion concerning the use of alternative methods in safety testing of medicinal products and considers the scientific work of the PEI in this field. From a regulator’s perspective, adequate demonstration of safety and quality of medicinal products are of major interest. Additionally, the availability of the products to the patient has to be taken into consideration. It has to be carefully explored whether the respective in vitro method for demonstration of non-clinical safety as part of the non-clinical development programme is able to guarantee safety level comparable to the corresponding experiment in animals. The topics cited above shall be discussed in this paper using the example of the Alternative Pyrogen Test or also called Monocyte Activation Test. The Alternative Pyrogen Test could serve as paradigm to exemplify how an alternative test can provide at least a comparable level of safety estimation in comparison with a conventional animal test. Furthermore, this alternative test creates additional information which cannot be obtained from the animal experiment, and might also open further scientific insight into the mechanisms of pyrogenicity and acute pro-inflammatory reactions in patients. This test method allows the definition of pyrogen limits for medicinal products. Due to its use of relevant cell systems this in vitro test might contribute significantly to safety assessments of advanced medicinal products during the pre-clinical phase.

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Montag, T., Spreitzer, I., Löschner, B., Unkelbach, U., Flory, E., Sanzenbacher, R., Schwanig, M. and Schneider, C. K. (2007) “Safety testing of cell-based medicinal products: Opportunities for the monocyte activation test for pyrogens”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 24(2), pp. 81-89. Available at: (Accessed: 5August2020).

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