The development of a biotechnological production process is a complex procedure. The establishment of a process in small laboratory scale with a few grams of product is followed by its “upscaling” to an industrial scale of several 100 liters of fermentation medium. “Upscaling” and product purification are not only two of the major challenges of industrial biotechnology but also research priorities at acib.
In the end the industry needs a product of high-purity in order to use it, for example, as a pharmaceutical compound. The result of the fermentation, however, is a mixture of nutrients, microorganisms and hundreds of substances produced in the fermentation. The desired product must be isolated from all other substances.
The scientists at acib develop the best methods for separating the desired product, which in some ways is similar to the search for a needle in a haystack. Using new materials and techniques, acib’s researchers replace conventional, slow and not very satisfactory methods in “downstream processing” by new high-performance variants.
Finally acib develops continuous processes, where product is continuously produced and purified – without interruption of the process. This is the most efficient form of a biotechnological production method.
A continuous process in protein purification has been established by acib-researchers. The new method shortens purification by an elaborate circuit of chromatographic columns. The purification process is faster and more environmentally friendly due to the recycling of the solvent. Alongside classical chromatographic methods, acib-researchers work with bionanoparticles – tiny particles (diameter less than 2 micrometers) with special functions and an enormous performance in the work-up of biomaterials.
Engineering sciences and on fundamental aspects allow the engineering of new processes and products for bio-manufacturing. To control and monitor bioprocesses, acib addresses three goals: (1) acceleration of process development, (2) consistent quality and (3) real time release or parametric release. The latter one is subject for the future of biotech industries. Prediction of processability at a very early stage goes along with these goals. Suitable monitoring and control is a prerequisite of continuous manufacturing, which will be inverstigated by acib and implemented in the industry in the next decade.
Another goal is to answer the question if disposable materials are equivalent to conventional material/processes; this economic equation has not been solved yet. It is acib’s challenge to address the engineering and economic questions simultaneously. This has an important potential for bioprocess development and bioprocess engineering. Continuous manufacturing of bionanoparticles has not been addressed before and may be the key for satisfactory consistency, higher productivity and ready to use processes. A further challenge is to combine material science with bioprocess engineering in order to develop materials with new functions for industrial bioprocesses.