The Development of Ofatumumab, a Fully Human Anti-CD20 Monoclonal Antibody for Practical Use in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

Stephen L. Hauser, Ludwig Kappos, Amit Bar-Or, Heinz Wiendl, David Paling, Mitzi Williams, Ralf Gold, Andrew Chan, Ron Milo, Ayan Das Gupta, Goeril Karlsson, Roseanne Sullivan, Gordon Graham, Martin Merschhemke, Dieter A. Häring, Patrick Vermersch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The importance of B cells in multiple sclerosis (MS) has been demonstrated through the advent of B-cell-depleting anti-CD20 antibody therapies. Ofatumumab is the first fully human anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody (mAb) developed and tested for subcutaneous (SC) self-administration at monthly doses of 20 mg, and has been approved in the US, UK, EU, and other regions and countries worldwide for the treatment of relapsing MS. The development goal of ofatumumab was to obtain a highly efficacious anti-CD20 therapy, with a safety and tolerability profile that allows for self-administration by MS patients at home and a positive benefit–risk balance for use in the broad relapsing MS population. This development goal was enabled by the unique binding site, higher affinity to B cells, and higher potency of ofatumumab compared to previous anti-CD20 mAbs; these properties of ofatumumab facilitate rapid B-cell depletion and maintenance with a low dose at a low injection volume (20 mg/0.4 ml). The high potency in turn enables the selective targeting of B cells that reside in the lymphatic system via subcutaneous (SC) administration. Through a comprehensive dose-finding program in two phase 2 studies (one intravenous and one SC) and model simulations, it was found that safety and tolerability can be further improved, and the risk of systemic injection-related reactions (IRRs) minimized, by avoiding doses ≥ 30 mg, and by reaching initial and rapid B-cell depletion via stepwise weekly administration of ofatumumab at Weeks 0, 1, and 2 (instead of a single high dose). Once near-complete B-cell depletion is reached, it can be maintained by monthly doses of 20 mg/0.4 ml. Indeed, in phase 3 trials (ASCLEPIOS I/II), rapid and sustained near-complete B-cell depletion (largely independent of body weight, race and other factors) was observed with this dosing regimen, which resulted in superior efficacy of ofatumumab versus teriflunomide on relapse rates, disability worsening, neuronal injury (serum neurofilament light chain), and imaging outcomes. Likely due to its fully human nature, ofatumumab has a low immunogenic risk profile—only 2 of 914 patients receiving ofatumumab in ASCLEPIOS I/II developed anti-drug antibodies—and this may also underlie the infrequent IRRs (20% with ofatumumab vs. 15% with the placebo injection in the teriflunomide arm) that were mostly (99.8%) mild to moderate in severity. The overall rates of infections and serious infections in patients treated with ofatumumab were similar to those in patients treated with teriflunomide (51.6% vs. 52.7% and 2.5% vs. 1.8%, respectively). The benefit–risk profile of ofatumumab was favorable compared to teriflunomide in the broad RMS population, and also in the predefined subgroups of both recently diagnosed and/or treatment-naïve patients, as well as previously disease-modifying therapy-treated patients. Interim data from the ongoing extension study (ALITHIOS) have shown that long-term treatment with ofatumumab up to 4 years is well-tolerated in RMS patients, with no new safety risks identified. In parallel to the phase 3 trials in which SC administration was carried out with a pre-filled syringe, an autoinjector pen for more convenient self-administration of the ofatumumab 20 mg dose was developed and is available for use in clinical practice. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1491-1515
Number of pages25
JournalNeurology and Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • Anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody
  • Benefit-risk
  • Ofatumumab
  • Relapsing multiple sclerosis
  • Self-administration
  • Subcutaneous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology


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