What Do Bioreactors and Thanksgiving Have in Common?

By Daniel R. Matlis

Thanksgiving dinner at my house involves all the staples and then some. Our turkey is moist and cooked to perfection, and clean up is a cinch since we began using Reynolds® Oven Bags.  You simply put the turkey in the heat-resistant nylon bag along with your favorite stuffing, vegetables, sauce or spices, place it in a baking pan and pop it in the oven. The Turkey comes out juicy and delicious with no messy pan to scrub.

I know what you are thinking, Dan you are breaking your rule about keeping Life-Science Panorama articles focused on Life-Science Issues. 

Au contraire mon freire or soeur.

Last week, at Interphex, I learned that plastic bags make for great cell culturing and no messy tank to clean, scrub or steam. (You have to see this)
At the show, I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Vijay Singh, founder of Wave Biotech (now Part of GE Healthcare). He explained that Wave develops and manufactures innovative process equipment for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. Their focus is disposable bioprocess equipment for operations.

Traditional cell culture is performed in stainless steel stirred tanks. The issue is that stirring can destroy cells due to fluid shear. Aeration is done by bubbling—which could be detrimental to product yields. Finally, empty tanks must be cleaned and sterilized, before they can be used again.

Albert Einstein said: “Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.”

I think Einstein would be very pleased if he saw the Wave Bioreactor®.

The concept is elegantly simple. The Wave Bioreactor employs pre-sterilized plastic bags – called Cellbags® – as single-use, disposable bioreactors. This design eliminates the need for cleaning, sterilization, and associated validation. The gamma-radiation sterilized Cellbags reduce the risk of contamination due to equipment malfunction or operator error typical of traditional bioreactors such as stirred tanks, spinners, and hollow-fiber systems.

Wave’s recent innovations included the development of bags with internal filters for perfusion and the scale up to culture with volumes up to 500 liters. Wave technology spin-offs include Wave Mixers which provide non-invasive sterile mixing, Wave Warmers for thawing applications, and a host of instrumentation suitable for introduction into bags.

The use of disposable contact materials eliminates cleaning and validation, thereby reducing costs in operations ranging from cell culture, media preparation, buffer dissolution, thawing process intermediates to patient-specific cell therapy in hospitals.

According to Dr. Singh “these unique, patented, devices can be installed and commissioned rapidly, drastically reducing the time-to-market for biological products. Our equipment is in use with hundreds of companies worldwide, both for R&D, as well as commercial applications.”

So next time you need to feed 15 for dinner or culture cells for personalized therapies, reach for a plastic bag, and save yourself the hassle of cleaning.

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