Automated analytical bioreactor for producing rare secondary metabolites

A bioreactor that facilitates rapid and automatic (or semiautomatic) monitoring and measuring of rare biological and metabolic events.

The Need

A typical fermentor or bioreactor is designed to run batch processes and product information is gathered only at the end of the runs. In such a system, many intermediate metabolites or reaction products are not detected or monitored. Some of these intermediates could be valuable compounds produced in small quantities only at a certain stage of the producer’s growth cycle (e.g., antimicrobial peptides and lipopeptides). Additionally, many parameters in traditional fermentation are difficult to monitor or control in real-time. Hence, there is a need for a new generation of fermenters and bioreaction equipment that address these problems.

The Technology

Dr. Ahmed Yousef and his Research Associate-Engineer, David Kasler, developed a bioreactor that not only automate and control lengthy fermentation runs, it also allows monitoring and capturing valuable metabolic intermediates. For example, the system allows for monitoring and separation of novel antimicrobial agents produced during a short stage of the growth cycle of the producing microorganism before it is destroyed at the later stages of growth. Similarly, the system is capable of monitoring and measuring other short-lived rare biological and metabolic events. The bioreactor also incorporates technology to concentrate compounds that are relatively hydrophobic in nature, eliminating the need for some downstream purification steps. Use of this technology helped the researchers discover a new biological phenomenon of great potential applications.

Commercial Applications

  • Industrial biotechnology
  • Laboratory and pharmaceutical drug discovery

Benefits/Advantages

  • Great savings in time and effort needed to monitor fermentations and other bioreactions
  • Optionally equipped with a probe that can sense the progression of the biological activity in real time
  • Collects analytes automatically for real-time or delayed processing
  • Concentrates and separates bioactive fermentation intermediates during the run
  • Customizable with features not traditionally found in available technologies
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