As cell-culture applications grow, so does the need for automation. In response, The Automation Partnership (TAP) introduced ambr™, an automated microbioreactor system, earlier this year. This system replicates the conditions in 5–10 L bioreactors within 10–15 mL vials. The system also provides stirred sparged culture with closed loop control of DO and pH along with automated sampling and feeding.
“Results from ambr’s beta testers have shown that the productivity values match those of larger bioreactors for fed-batch processes,” according to Richard Wales, Ph.D., systems development. Those early users also found a correlation in the amount of protein produced.
In many labs, “there’s a queue for bioreactors,” Dr. Wales says. “People tell us one FTE can manage four to eight bench-scale bioreactors at the 2 to 10 liter scale.” In contrast, that same FTE can manage 24 microbioreactors in the ambr system in only a quarter of the time. “There’s quite an overhead associated with larger bioreactors,” he explains, in terms of labor and cleaning, as well as materials consumption.
In contrast, ambr automates tedious tasks, including set-up, feeding, sampling, and maintenance. This saves a significant amount of time, as does the disposable nature of the bioreactors. ambr reportedly has applications throughout the biodevelopment process, but TAP is focusing initially on cell-line selection and characterization and early process development.
Another recent addition to cell-culture automation, TAP’s Sonata™ cultures and processes insect and mammalian cell lines in shake flasks. It can count cells, add and decant media, centrifuge and harvest cells, and provide refrigeration, allowing optimization to occur at any time, thereby increasing workflow, Dr. Wales says. With automation, “you get a much higher level of consistency.”