March 2009

Molecular Medicine

      In the 1980s biotechnology began to transform medicine with the introduction of recombinant hormone treatments and “magic-bullet” drugs based on monoclonal antibodies. In the 1990s, protein kinases offered a key to cancer treatment, and gene therapies promised to address many diseases at their most basic, genetic level. The 21st Century has brought us stem cells, RNA interference, biomarkers, and predictive medicine. None of these things has supplanted the others; instead, they merely expand on the basic idea…

Overcoming Barriers to Success

Eli Lilly’s 2001 annual report stated that “Xigris… will prove to be one of our industry’s genuine breakthroughs” (1). The company believed that its first-in-class drug “could help save one in five people who otherwise would die” from severe sepsis. One of the world’s oldest and most virulent killers, sepsis is the third most common cause of death for hospitalized patients in the developed world after heart disease and cancer. In the United States alone, 750,000 patients are hospitalized with…

The Business of Biotech

      Calivin Coolidge, who served as president of the United States from 1923 to 1929, is often misquoted as saying “The business of America is business.” According to historians, however, what he really said was, “The chief business of the American people is business.” And he went on in the same speech to say, “Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.” So the real Coolidge (as opposed to the caricature…

Selection and Oversight of Domestic and International CMOs

Contract manufacturing is essential for early development of products by companies of all sizes, and it plays an important role in later production and testing. Product development is a complex process requiring manufacturing, optimization, and testing of candidate drugs, devices, combination products, and biologicals even before they ever reach the clinic. Contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) provide services ranging from early product development and lead-candidate screening to process development, product manufacture, and testing. Outsourcing of development, manufacturing, testing, preclinical, and clinical…

A Vital Link

      Clinical studies serve as a bridge between biopharmaceutical laboratories and the patients who need therapies. Drugs need to be tested in small populations before they are made available to the world at large. In a 2006 interview with BioProcess International, editorial advisor Michiel Ultee (vice president of Process Sciences for Laureate Pharma) said, “Until your product is tested in humans — and shown to be safe and to have some efficacy — then you really don’t have…

A Prescriptive Approach to Management of Solid Waste from Single-Use Systems

In biopharmaceutical manufacturing, the disposal of solid waste from single-use systems is becoming an increasingly important issue. The new focus is driven by several major factors including a broadening range of disposable technologies enabling, in some cases, the installation of completely disposable multistage systems; improved scalability of single-use components offering production capacities to thousands of liters; and the environmental impact of waste disposal. The latter concern includes not only regulatory and cost constraints, but also the need for users to…

Growing the Future

      No segment of the biotechnology industry has received more public scrutiny than agricultural biotech — except maybe its application to food. And none has been subject to more “hype” and high hopes for instant results than biofuels. By contrast, industrial biotechnology seems almost invisible to the public at large. In general, the more immediate the effects on consumers, the more likely they are to pay attention and either laud or loathe the associated technology. The general public…

Automated Liquid Handlers As Sources of Error

    Use of automated liquid handling equipment for rapid testing and reproducible screening of thousands of molecules, cells, and compounds has become an essential component of life-science laboratories across the globe. Along with an increase in such use, transferred volumes have shrunk, as demands increase on transfer accuracy and precision when aspirating, diluting, dispensing, mixing, and washing. Automated liquid handlers are generally used to increase the productivity and repeatability of volume transfer, but as discussed here, they are still…

A World of Possibilities

      Biotechnology truly is global, with some form of the industry in progress on every continent but Antarctica. Countries such as Brazil are even outpacing Europe and North America in the advancement of biofuels technology. But as in the developed world where this industry began, we see other countries looking first and foremost to the medical applications of biotech — because historically that’s where the money has been. Some countries are building their own fully integrated bioindustrial sectors.…

Use of Membrane Technology in Bioprocessing Therapeutic Proteins from Inclusion Bodies of

The ultimate goal of recombinant fermentation research is cost-effective production of desired proteins by maximizing volumetric productivity (to obtain the highest amount of protein in a given volume in the least amount of time). Bioprocessing for recombinant proteins using genetically modified organisms requires a stable, high-yielding recombinant culture, a highly productive fermentation process, and cost-effective recovery and purification procedures. Escherichia coli has been a widely used host for expression of recombinant proteins (1). Its advantages lie in the enormous data…