The development of a biotechnological production process – for example for a pharmaceutical compound – is a complex procedure. The establishment of a fermentation process in small laboratory scale with approximately 3 litres of culture volume yielding a few grams of product is followed by its “upscaling” to an industrial scale of several 100 litres of fermentation medium.
In the end, products intended for pharmaceutical use have to be of highest purity. The result of the fermentation process, 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, they replace conventional, slow and not very satisfactory methods by new high-performance variants.
“Upscaling” and product purification are not only two of the major challenges of industrial biotechnology, but also research priorities at acib. It is aimed to combine the production and the purification part to continuous bioprocesses, 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 understanding of fundamental aspects allow the development of novel production processes for bio-manufacturing. By applying sophisticated process control and monitoring tools, acib addresses three goals of biopharmaceutical industry: (1) acceleration of process development, (2) consistent product quality and (3) real time 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 is investigated by acib and will be implemented in the industry in the next decade.
It is acib’s challenge to address the engineering and economic questions simultaneously, which has an important potential for bioprocess development and bioprocess engineering. Continuous manufacturing using 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.
Function: Head of the research field Bioprocess Engineering
Phone: +43 1 476 547 9083
Function: Coordination of Area 5