Polysorbate 20 (PS20) is a nonionic surfactant frequently used to stabilize protein biopharmaceuticals. During the development of mAb formulations containing PS20, small clouds of particles were observed in solutions stored in vials. The degree of particle formation was dependent on PS20 concentration. The particles were characterized by reversed-phase HPLC after dissolution and labeling with the fluorescent dye 1-pyrenyldiazomethane. The analysis showed that the particles consisted of free fatty acids (FFAs), with the distribution of types consistent with those found in the PS20 raw material. Protein solutions formulated with polysorbate 80, a chemically similar nonionic surfactant, showed a substantial delay in particle formation over time compared with PS20. Multiple lots of polysorbates were evaluated for FFA levels, each exhibiting differences based on polysorbate type and lot. Polysorbates purchased in more recent years show a greater distribution and quantity of FFA and also a greater propensity to form particles. This work shows that the quality control of polysorbate raw materials could play an important role in biopharmaceutical product quality.
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