• fermentation;
  • bioprocess monitoring;
  • scale-down centrifugation;
  • downstream processing;
  • fragment antibody


The physical and biological conditions of the host cell obtained at the end of fermentation influences subsequent downstream processing unit operations. The ability to monitor these characteristics is central to the improvement of biopharmaceutical manufacture. In this study, we have used a combination of techniques such as adaptive focus acoustics (AFA) and ultra scale-down (USD) centrifugation that utilize milliliter quantities of sample to obtain an insight into the interaction between cells from the upstream process and initial downstream unit operations. This is achieved primarily through an assessment of cell strength and its impact on large-scale disc stack centrifugation performance, measuring critical attributes such as viscosity and particle size distribution. An Escherichia coli fed-batch fermentation expressing antibody fragments in the periplasm was used as a model system representative of current manufacturing challenges. The weakening of cell strength during cultivation time, detected through increased micronization and viscosity, resulted in a 2.6-fold increase in product release rates from the cell (as measured by AFA) and approximately fourfold decrease in clarification performance (as measured by USD centrifugation). The information obtained allows for informed harvest point decisions accounting for both product leakages during fermentation and potential losses during primary recovery. The clarification performance results were verified at pilot scale. The use of these technologies forms a route to the process understanding needed to tailor the host cell and upstream process to the product and downstream process, critical to the implementation of quality-by-design principles. © 2011 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 2011