The declining value of the dollar has benefited U.S. suppliers in the bioreactor and fermentor market overseas, according to Dick Bonyun, vp of sales and services at ABEC.
“In the last year, bioreactor sales were at an all-time high,” Bonyun says. “Sales have been robust and definitely the best in recent memory, more global from a distribution standpoint. The value of the dollar has worked in our favor to give us more opportunities in the global market and bring greater value to overseas customers.”
Mike Sattan, vp of marketing at New Brunswick Scientific an Eppendorf company, concurs on the banner-year status. “We are having a record year in all systems,” he reports. “Our overall business in both cell culture and fermentation is strong, from bench scale through our pilot (3,000 L) systems.”
While sales are increasing, some report that volumes are starting to decrease. In the last few years, ABEC’s capacities and reactor volumes have both increased, explains ABEC’s Paul Kubera, vp of engineering, “but the technology is improving, and it is now possible to grow culture to higher densities and achieve higher product titers in smaller reactors. We are seeing a little of that. But clients are still building 10,000+ L bioreactors; that has not changed.”
“Specifically in the bioreactor area,” notes Nigel Darby, GM, biotechnologies, GE Life Sciences, “If we look at it from the macroperspective, the big question five years ago was whether there was going to be a capacity crunch. That’s driven a lot of activity to build plants with high volume capacity. The monoclonal antibody market has been a key driver in maximizing capacity, but as capacity has been built, technology has evolved.
“Historically, antibody expression was low, less than a gram a liter. We’re looking now at 5–10 grams produced per liter, requiring smaller overall manufacturing volumes, which has produced an interesting debate about how to utilize available capacity. As culture volumes potentially decrease, people are looking to use their available capacity more flexibly and there is substantial interest in developing flexible multiproduct facilities.”
Howard Weber, director of sales and marketing at Applikon Biotechnology, agrees that the market seems to be getting smaller, not in sales but in volume. “Scientists are looking for more information and higher throughput—titers that are up to 4 g/L.”
Applikon has two new products that address the smaller volume issue and provide increased information.
“We have the Micro-24 for screening and testing of new cells and new strains, and optimizing media when you move to more expressive lines. The Micro-24 provides 24 individual bioreactors that allow independent control of pH, DO, and temperature with agitation from 0 to 800 rpms. All this with a volume of 7–10 mL. The system has shown excellent results with many cell lines including microbial, insect, and CHO cell lines,” Weber says.
“The second product is the Micro Flask. This product uses either 24- or 96-well plates. The investment is small as the system uses existing orbital shakers already found in the lab. The results are as good as or better than shake flasks, and you receive hundreds of results instead of a few dozen thus, much more information in the same space and time.”
Applikon and Aber Instruments recently inked an agreement for the exclusive supply of an integrated bioreactor controller and sensor for viable cells. Applikon will offer the viable cell sensor and controller option in its ez-Control bioreactor controller portfolio.