Taking the stress out of industrial production.
Life science discoveries happen at the small scale, which can cause problems when they need to be scaled up to provide treatment for whole populations. It is then too late to find these issues once money and time has been invested in developing a manufacturing process. Researchers in UCL Biochemical Engineering have pioneered the use of ultra scale-down techniques to bring discoveries successfully to the world market.
The high intensities and volumes of industrial processing can subject their content to extreme stress, which can cause damage or destruction to the products and proteins involved. Prediction of the points where extreme conditions will be acting, and the design of engineering solutions to protect the delicate product are crucial.
Immediately after the discovery of a useful product only very small amounts of the material exist. UCL Biochemical Engineers ran miniature versions of the process scaled down 50,000 times to require just millilitres of the precious material, and were able to predict the product damage which would occur at full manufacturing scale. Armed with this information, they could suggest changes to the process such as the use of smaller filters, or the addition of a low-shear feed zone to the centrifuge to reduce the force on the product entering it.
Similar ultra scaled-down technology has been used in collaborations with the University of Kent, Lonza Biologics and Agilent technologies, looking into how mammalian cell culture and harvesting conditions affect protein structure. Knowing when cells are at their most fragile, they could advise when harvesting should take place.
These and other insights produced by scaled-down tech shorten the journey from discovery to full commercial manufacturing, while avoiding errors. This not only saves money, but means drug development costs can be recouped faster: allowing research to begin on new therapies destined to alleviate suffering on a global scale.