Biotechnological methods are used to investigate marine life and the results obtained from these investigations advance research in the fields of medicine and energy and into substances used as food supplements and cosmetics. The area of marine biotechnology is fairly diverse. Although it is not on the coast even the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg is involved in marine biotechnology.
Microorganisms and sensitive cells that are grown in bioreactors need a well-regulated environment and a food supply in order to do what they are supposed to do: grow and produce biomass and metabolites. Many fermenters are equipped with sensors that continuously measure critical bioprocess parameters, including temperature, pH value and oxygen. Online glucose and ethanol sensors are not yet used in regulated bioreactors, even though they would make the bioprocess much quicker and more economical.
The research group led by Prof. Ralf Reski is a moss specialist and has now, for the first time, succeeded in producing a human protein in a moss bioreactor – the complement factor H. The lack of this protein leads to age-related macular degeneration in about 50 million people worldwide. The complement factor H has been assigned ‘orphan drug’ status by the respective EU authorities.
Two projects from Baden-Württemberg were among the winners of the 12th Medical Technology Innovation Competition organised by the German BMBF. One project consists of a new bioreactor technology developed at the Institute of Anatomy of the Centre for Regenerative Biology and Medicine (ZRM) in Tübingen, which seeks to improve the supply of cells and tissue with nutrients and oxygen by cultivating them in aerosols.
The demand for made-to-measure analytical methods is increasing as interest in the biological production of materials and pharmaceuticals increases. It is extremely important economically for bioindustry to know the production time and quantity of products that result from specific fermentation conditions. Inspired by natural molecular processes, researchers from Tübingen and Stuttgart are working on new, label-free analytical methods that make it possible to monitor the entire process.
The Laupheim-based contract manufacturer Rentschler Biotechnologie GmbH is greatly expanding its production capacities. The company is investing €24 million in the construction of two 3,000 litre stainless steel bioreactors, which should be operational in early 2017 and will more than double the production capacities for cell culture-derived proteins. Rentschler also announced recently that it was adding a new 2,000 litre single-use bioreactor that will be operational at the end of the first quarter of 2015. Dr. Christoph Winterhalter, Vice President Business Development & Sales at Rentschler Biotechnologie, talked with Walter Pytlik (BioRegionUlm) about the company’s investment and production plans.
Researchers from the Institute of Analytical Chemistry at the Mannheim University of Applied Sciences are focusing on sensors in their effort to increase the yields of bioreactors and reduce the number of animals used for toxicity testing of pharmaceuticals. In addition, the chemists from Mannheim are aiming to investigate the activity of plant substances in the Bioactive Plant Foods Network, a transnational network for the promotion of bioactive plant ingredients.
Subitec GmbH, a manufacturer of fully automated algae photobioreactors, hascloseda second round of financing. The CleantechFonds of eCAPITAL entrepreneurial Partners AG, Fraunhofer Venture, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and KfW Bankengruppe’s ERP-Startfonds participated in the capital increase. Subitec funds to the amount of 4.5 Mio Euros will accrue in this round of financing. The raised capital is to be used mainly for launching bioreactors on the international market and to extend technological leadership.
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a human protein hormone that is predominantly produced in kidneys. Scientists from the Chair of Plant Biotechnology of the University of Freiburg, Germany, around Dr. Eva Decker and Professor Ralf Reski and from the Freiburg-based biotech company greenovation have genetically engineered the moss Physcomitrella patens in such a way that it now produces recombinant human asialo-EPO in the moss bioreactor. The researchers published their results in the current online-version of the Plant Biotechnology Journal.
SÜDPACK Verpackungen is a qualified supplier of plastic films to the biopharmaceutical industry. The company is the leading European manufacturer of packaging products for the food industry and also offers its expertise to the biopharmaceutical industry. In 2011, SÜDPACK created an exclusive cooperation partnership with Sartorius Stedim Biotech, a global technology provider for the pharmaceutical biotech industry, which has now been extended before its end date.
It is estimated that as many as one million secondary plant metabolites can be used as medical agents. Plants produce these compounds to aid their growth and development as well as to discourage herbivores from eating them. However, it is still very difficult, or even impossible, to produce secondary plant metabolites industrially. Researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are now developing a microfluidic bioreactor to make the industrial production of plant metabolites more practical.
Aerated stirred tank reactors have virtually become a standard piece of equipment in bioprocess engineering. No other bioprocess engineering bioreactor is as versatile meaning that significant time- and cost savings are made.
If the environment is right and both sides are genuinely interested in working together then the cooperation between biologists and engineers will lead to top technologies. One example of such cooperations is the bioreactors of the Department of Cell Systems at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart.
Scientists from the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the Heidelberg University Hospital have developed a bioreactor to produce a new heart from a patient’s own heart cells. The reactor mirrors the internal conditions of the human body. For example, the medium with the patient’s cells is pumped into the developing organ via small pulses that mirror the human heartbeat.
Prof. Dr. Ralf Reski conducts basic research at the University of Freiburg. But this is not all the well-known plant biotechnologist does. He also wants his ideas to become concrete products. This is why he established Greenovation Biotech GmbH, a company which produces novel drugs in mosses. The company’s first moss-produced drug candidate – Moss-aGal – a recombinant form of human α-galactosidase, is now being tested in a phase I clinical trial.
Human disease can be treated with substances from traditional medicinal plants or with molecular pharming products. Molecular pharming uses genetic engineering techniques to insert genes into plants or animals that would otherwise not express these genes. These transgenics can then be used to produce therapeutic proteins such as antibodies. Dr. Eva Decker from the University of Freiburg and her team have now successfully produced a key protein of the human immune system in the moss Physcomitrella patens. Recombinant factor H might be used at some stage in the future for the therapy of atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome, a rare, life-threatening disease that affects kidney function. This is the common goal of Freiburg University Medical Centre and a company called Greenovation.
The cellular protein machinery is a marvel of nature and produces umpteen different proteins. Most of these proteins pass through a stack of membrane-enclosed discs, known as the Golgi apparatus, a miniature reaction chamber where the finishing touch is progressively added to the proteins. Rudolf Hausmann, professor and head of the Department of Bioprocess Engineering at the University of Hohenheim, is developing membranes based on the Golgi model to facilitate production of proteins outside the cells.
The primary objective of greenovation Biotech GmbH is the implementation of a stable production platform for the manufacture of glycoproteins for industrial pharmaceutical applications in accordance with GMP guidelines. Now Gregor Mirow succeeds Hans Bodo Hartmann as the new managing director.
The young Swiss company Kenta Biotech will work with the Laupheim-based contract manufacturer Rentschler to develop a fully human monoclonal antibody against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Cell culture technology is only taught at a handful of universities. However, this interdisciplinary subject is the core of the “Pharmaceutical Biotechnology” programme offered by the Biberach University of Applied Sciences. We talked about the subject with Professor Jürgen Hannemann, founding dean of the “Pharmaceutical Biotechnology” programme, and with Professor Friedemann Hesse, who runs the “cell culture technology” teaching programme.
The speed dating format is no longer just a popular and simple dating method for lonely hearts, but has also become a rewarding way for establishing new business contacts and connections quickly and efficiently. BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg chose speed networking, as speed dating is called in the corporate world, for its recent Meet & Match event on pharmaceutical process technology, which took place on 15th March 2016 with the support of Bosch Packaging Technology in Crailsheim.
What causes stress for some, actually speeds others like extremophilic bacteria up. They love it hot, sour or salty, toxic substances like heavy metals also do them good and even give them energy. As molecular and systems biology techniques get better and better, industry is also becoming increasingly interested in these exotic organisms. What potential does knowing the biochemistry of extremophilic bacteria have for the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and sanitary articles industries? Whatever the answer might turn out to be, there is certainly a growing trend towards using extremophilic microbes in academic and industrial research.
Regenerative medicine offers new therapeutic options for many diseases in which organ function or structure are damaged or lost. The majority of regenerative therapies involve cell-based methods that are often combined with innovative biomaterials. Regenerative therapies combine know-how from the biosciences with state-of-the-art medical technology and also benefit from progress in the engineering and material sciences.
The 2nd Laupheimer Zelltage conference organized by Rentschler Biotechnologie GmbH in Laupheim on 11th and 12th June 2012 focused on “Bioprocess light”. Twelve experts from applied research institutions and biotech companies from Germany and abroad provided the 200 or so guests with information on how modern bioproduction methods can be made simpler, more robust, cheaper, more reliable and hence more competitive.