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Influenza viruses production: Evaluation of a novel avian cell line DuckCelt®-T17.


The influenza vaccine manufacturing industry is looking for production cell lines that are easily scalable, highly permissive to multiple viruses, and more effective in term of viral productivity. One critical characteristic of such cell lines is their ability to grow in suspension, in serum free conditions and at high cell densities. Influenza virus causing severe epidemics both in human and animals is an important threat to world healthcare. The repetitive apparition of influenza pandemic outbreaks in the last 20years explains that manufacturing sector is still looking for more effective production processes to replace/supplement embryonated egg-based process. Cell-based production strategy, with a focus on avian cell lines, is one of the promising solutions. Three avian cell lines, namely duck EB66®cells (Valneva), duck AGE.CR® cells (Probiogen) and quail QOR/2E11 cells (Baxter), are now competing with traditional mammalian cell platforms (Vero and MDCK cells) used for influenza vaccine productions and are currently at advance stage of commercial development for the manufacture of influenza vaccines. The DuckCelt®-T17 cell line presented in this work is a novel avian cell line developed by Transgene. This cell line was generated from primary embryo duck cells with the constitutive expression of the duck telomerase reverse transcriptase (dTERT). The DuckCelt®-T17 cells were able to grow in batch suspension cultures and serum-free conditions up to 6.5×10(6)cell/ml and were easily scaled from 10ml up to 3l bioreactor. In the present study, DuckCelt®-T17 cell line was tested for its abilities to produce various human, avian and porcine influenza strains. Most of the viral strains were produced at significant infectious titers (>5.8 log TCID50/ml) with optimization of the infection conditions. Human strains H1N1 and H3N2, as well as all the avian strains tested (H5N2, H7N1, H3N8, H11N9, H12N5) were the most efficiently produced with highest titre reached of 9.05 log TCID50/ml for A/Panama/2007/99 influenza H3N2. Porcine strains were also greatly rescued with titres from 4 to 7 log TCID50/ml depending of the subtypes. Interestingly, viral kinetics showed maximal titers reached at 24h post-infection for most of the strains, allowing early harvest time (Time Of Harvest: TOH). The B strains present specific production kinetics with a delay of 24h before reaching the maximal viral particle release. Process optimization on H1N1 2009 human pandemic strain allowed identifying best operating conditions for production (MOI, trypsin concentration, cell density at infection) allowing improving the production level by 2 log. Our results suggest that the DuckCelt®-T17 cell line is a very promising platform for industrial production of influenza viruses and particularly for avian viral strains.