Max-Planck-Institut für Dynamik komplexer technischer Systeme
Bioprocess engineering uses the capabilities of microorganisms in industrial, medical, environmental or agricultural processes in order to produce useful biological materials. Since centuries people make wine, vinegar or food products with bacteria and yeast often without any specific scientific background or even the realization that microorganisms are involved. This situation changed in the early 20th century with the rise of microbiology, molecular biology, genetics and modern manufacturing methods. Today, computer controlled bioreactors are used to aseptically produce large quantities of important biologicals such as amino acids, recombinant proteins, antibiotics or viral vaccines.
Many of the existing as well as potential new drugs are produced in eukaryotic cells which show poor productivity compared to classical fermentation processes. To achieve the full potential of biotechnological production methods, highly developed cell culture technologies and sophisticated product recovery steps have to be established. Furthermore, a detailed description of the complex mechanism underlying cell growth and product formation is indispensable. Consequently, the acquisition of an enormous amount of data on different levels is required to develop and optimize new and existing industrial processes. Ongoing improvements in on- & off-line monitoring facilitate the analysis of cell metabolism, media consumption and product formation in bioreactors or give relevant information on yield or product purity after several chromatographic processes. Furthermore, recent progress in high-throughput analysis of gene and protein expression, protein function or signal transduction will help to elucidate mechanisms of cellular behavior and offer tremendous opportunities for optimizing bioprocesses or develop new applications in pharmacy and medicine.
Mathematical modeling plays a crucial role in analyzing and optimizing cell culture technology. Without such models it is practically impossible to quantitatively understand metabolic pathways and regulatory networks of cells, complex interactions between microorganisms and their environment in a bioreactor or to allow for a rational design of downstream processing steps to maximize yield and purity of the final product. So far, only qualitative aspects of cell growth and product formation are established for most of the existing products. However, together with the increasing amount of data available from all levels of a bioprocess - cell, bioreactor, downstream processing - this information should serve as a sound basis on which mathematical models for all relevant aspects of bioprocesses can be formulated and validated. This will eventually not only allow to perform theoretical studies and numerical simulations to make predictions on how to improve yield and purity of biologicals but also to improve concepts for monitoring and control of bioreactors and downstream processing steps. Additionally, the detailed analysis of cell growth and product formation will allow us to better understand part of the enormous complexity of biological systems.
Forschung & Lehre