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Beyond MABEL: An Integrative Approach to First in Human Dose Selection of Immunomodulators by the Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) Immuno-Safety Technical Committee (ITC).

Administration of a new drug candidate in a first-in-human (FIH) clinical trial is a particularly challenging phase in drug development and is especially true for immunomodulators, which are a diverse and complex class of drugs with a broad range of mechanisms of action and associated safety risks. Risk is generally greater for immunostimulators, in which safety concerns are associated with acute toxicity, compared to immunosuppressors, where the risks are related to chronic effects. Current methodologies for FIH dose selection for immunostimulators are focused primarily on identifying the minimum anticipated biological effect level (MABEL), which has often resulted in sub-therapeutic doses, leading to long and costly escalation phases. The Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI) - Immuno-Safety Technical Committee (ITC) organized a project to address this issue through two complementary approaches: (i) an industry survey on FIH dose selection strategies and (ii) detailed case studies for immunomodulators in oncology and non-oncology indications. Key messages from the industry survey responses highlighted a preference toward more dynamic PK/PD approaches as in vitro assays are seemingly not representative of true physiological conditions for immunomodulators. These principles are highlighted in case studies. To address the above themes, we have proposed a revised decision tree, which expands on the guidance by the IQ MABEL Working Group (Leach et al. 2021). This approach facilitates a more refined recommendation of FIH dose selection for immunomodulators, allowing for a nuanced consideration of their mechanisms of action (MOAs) and the associated risk-to-benefit ratio, among other factors.

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