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Crafting Quality Systems for Each Phase of Drug Development with Carlos Yuraszeck

Carlos discusses the impact of phase-appropriate quality systems on accelerating drug development and ensuring patient safety.

In the most recent episode of our podcast, The Life Science Rundown, The FDA Group's Nick Capman sat down with Carlos Yuraszeck, an accomplished leader in biopharmaceutical compliance, operations, and quality assurance, with a specialized focus on driving innovation and efficiency in cell therapy manufacturing.

With over two decades of dedicated service in the biopharmaceutical industry, most recently serving as the Head of GMP Manufacturing at the Astellas Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Carlos provided profound insights into the pivotal role of phase-appropriate quality systems in managing drug development from research to commercialization. Our discussion focused on how these systems facilitate the rapid delivery of treatments to patients in urgent need.

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Understanding phase-appropriate quality systems

Carlos introduced the concept of phase-appropriate quality systems as specifically designed frameworks that align with the unique requirements of various stages of drug development.

This approach is particularly significant in biotech, where delivering treatments swiftly to patients is critical. Contrary to the common perception that these systems primarily aim to reduce costs, Carlos stressed their crucial role in facilitating the quick transition of products from the laboratory to clinical settings, thereby more effectively addressing urgent patient needs.

Discussing the regulatory framework, Carlos noted that the FDA plays a crucial role by setting guidelines that adapt to the needs of different development phases. For instance, Phase 1 manufacturing is exempt from certain stringent GMP requirements specified in sections 210 and 211 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This strategic relaxation aims to boost the initial stages of drug development. However, Carlos emphasized that despite these relaxations, the FDA maintains strict oversight to ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs, thereby safeguarding patient health.

Variability and compliance in drug development phases

Carlos and Nicholas delved deeper into how phase-appropriate quality systems manage variability and compliance across different drug development stages:

  • Early Stages (Phase 1): Due to their experimental nature, production processes are highly variable in the early stages. Carlos highlighted that quality systems during this phase should be flexible enough to accommodate rapid changes and adjustments without being bogged down by excessive deviations, which could impede progress.

  • Middle Stages (Phase 2 and 3): As the drug advances into later stages, the regulatory scrutiny increases significantly. Carlos discussed how quality systems must evolve to meet these higher standards, ensuring that the drug is produced consistently and effectively.

  • Change Control and Flexibility: A robust and agile change control mechanism is key to effective early-stage quality systems. This system should anticipate and manage frequent changes swiftly, facilitating quick learning and adaptation based on new insights into the product and its manufacturing process.

Analytical testing and process development

Using analytical testing as a case study, Carlos illustrated how phase-appropriate quality systems support development activities. He explained that in early phases, the focus should be on managing and understanding variability in test results, which could arise from different sources like equipment and reagents. Quality systems should be designed to continue learning about these assays throughout the development process, enabling better control and optimization.

Preclinical to clinical transition

Transitioning from preclinical stages to clinical trials is a critical phase that requires maintaining high consistency in material quality. Carlos emphasized that the quality of materials used in preclinical tests must closely match those used in clinical trials, as these form the basis for safety claims. Effective quality systems should therefore extend to these early stages, ensuring that preclinical materials are produced under conditions similar to clinical manufacturing settings.

Carlos wrapped up the discussion by reiterating the importance of designing quality systems that meet regulatory standards and facilitate rapid development and deep understanding of new treatments. The ultimate goal, he noted, is to find the right balance between the urgency of development and the thoroughness of testing and validation, tailoring these systems to the specific risks and needs of the patient population being served.

Key takeaways

  • Design and implement quality systems that are adaptable to the inherent variability and rapid changes typical of early drug development phases. This allows for quick adjustments and modifications without extensive bureaucratic delays. For example, develop protocols that anticipate and manage frequent process modifications, minimizing the need for exhaustive documentation each time.

  • Focus on refining analytical testing methods to handle and understand variability effectively from the start. This involves continuous improvement of assays to ensure they meet the evolving requirements as development progresses. Establish robust procedures for sampling, sample preparation, and using reagents that can adapt to variability and provide reliable data during early phases.

  • Create a proactive change control system that’s equipped to handle and quickly integrate changes. This system should prioritize learning and adapting over rigid compliance to facilitate innovation. Change control processes should allow for rapid response and integration of new findings or technologies without extensive review cycles, particularly in phases where rapid iteration is critical.

  • To facilitate a smooth transition, make sure that materials used in preclinical tests are consistent with those planned for clinical trials. This consistency is crucial for maintaining the integrity of safety data. Implement quality controls that monitor and ensure the reproducibility of preclinical materials, aligning them closely with clinical-stage materials.

  • Tailor training programs to equip teams with the knowledge and skills needed to manage the specific challenges of each phase. This includes training on handling variability and understanding the nuances of phase-appropriate regulations. Offer workshops and simulation exercises that replicate scenarios likely to occur in different phases, helping teams prepare for real-world challenges.

Carlos is a distinguished leader in biopharmaceutical compliance, operations, and quality assurance, specializing in cell therapy manufacturing. Over his extensive career spanning more than two decades, Carlos has significantly impacted the biopharmaceutical industry through his leadership in various pivotal roles. As the Executive Director of GMP Operations at Astellas Pharma US, he led the transformation of research groups into fully operational GMP manufacturing facilities. Earlier, as Senior Vice President of Technical Operations at Talaris Therapeutics, he managed operations focused on groundbreaking organ transplantation therapies.

At Celgene, Carlos directed clinical production and supply, where he scaled up manufacturing operations to support the delivery of life-saving CAR T-cell therapies. His tenure in the industry is marked by a commitment to excellence, deep regulatory knowledge, and strategic oversight, which have driven the successful development and commercialization of novel therapies. Carlos's leadership style emphasizes collaboration, transparency, and continuous learning, aiming always to enhance patient outcomes and advance the field of biopharmaceuticals through innovative and efficient manufacturing practices.

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