• Baculovirus biopesticide;
  • insect cell culture;
  • low-cost medium;
  • tube bioreactors;
  • statistical optimization


A critical component of an in vitro production process for baculovirus biopesticides is a growth medium that is efficacious, robust, and inexpensive. An in-house low-cost serum-free medium, VPM3, has been shown to be very promising in supporting Helicoverpa armigera nucleopolyhedrovirus (HaSNPV) production in H. zea insect cell suspension cultures, for use as a biopesticide against the Heliothine pest complex. However, VPM3 is composed of a significant number of undefined components, including five different protein hydrolysates, which introduce a challenging lot-to-lot variability to the production process. In this study, an intensive statistical optimization routine was employed to reduce the number of protein hydrolysates in VPM3 medium. Nearly 300 runs (including replicates) were conducted with great efficiency by using 50 mL TubeSpin® bioreactors to propagate insect cell suspension cultures. Fractional factorial experiments were first used to determine the most important of the five default protein hydrolysates, and to screen for seven potential substitutes for the default meat peptone, Primatone RL. Validation studies informed by the screening tests showed that promising alternative media could be formulated based on just two protein hydrolysates, in particular the YST-AMP (Yeast Extract and Amyl Meat Peptone) and YST-POT (Yeast Extract and Lucratone Potato Peptone) combinations. The YST-AMP (meat-based) and YST-POT (meat-free) variants of VPM3 were optimized using response surface methodology, and were shown to be just as good as the default VPM3 and the commercial Sf-900 II media in supporting baculovirus yields, hence providing a means toward a more reproducible and scalable production process for HaSNPV biopesticides. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog.,, 2012