Societies around the world could benefit from bioprocessing. Getting this technology to more people, though, requires an easy-to-use and simple-to-set-up bioprocessor. That’s just what is being developed at Buenos Aires- and San Francisco-based startup Stämm, which was founded by Juan Francisco “Yuyo” Llamazares Vegh, now CEO, and Federico D’Alvia Vegh, now COO.
According to Yuyo Vegh, “In a nutshell, we have combined three microfluidic devices which are the heart of the bioprocessor.” He adds that the “goal is to replace and automate the steps of scaling up a cell culture, from manipulating the cell bank to harvesting the processed medium ready to be purified.”
The first microfluidic device, called the strain-on-a-chip, is an arrangement of fluid traps that provide a constant flow of cells to initiate the scaling-up process.
“It can be inoculated under biosafety cabinets, then frozen or dehydrated, to later be used within the production facility,” Yuyo Vegh explains. “This device eliminates the need to have a cell bank on-site and the need to manipulate cell banks and reactive lines every time we want to start a production process.”
Those cells go into the second microfluidic device, which is a two-dimensional bioreactor on a chip. This stage is “designed to monitor the cell line’s behavior during the first cell divisions of the bioprocess and calibrate the output cell’s density, the formulation of culture medium, pH, and dissolved oxygen—all online,” Yuyo Vegh says. “This device facilitates the calibration and optimization of parameters in real time.”
The last microfluidic device is the bubble-free-bioreactor, which “functionalizes the efficiency of the microvasculature in a 3D system that allows the correct mixing, oxygen dissolution, feeding, and PH and temperature control,” notes Yuyo Vegh.
In 2019, Stämm started testing this system in the production of monoclonal antibodies. During 2020, the biotechnology company “focused on scaling up bioprocesses and building a cGMP facility to launch a qualification batch with our pilot-scale technology,” which should start running by the end of 2021, according to Yuyo Vegh.
So far, he sees this system providing several benefits, including “the removal of cellular stress, greater control over the microenvironment, higher working cell densities and titers. This significantly impacts the ease of implementation and the economics of biomanufacturing facilities.”
In addition to the economics, Yuyo Vegh takes somewhat of a philosophical approach to this technology. “The decentralization of industrial biomanufacturing compels us to start building a common language for production, to facilitate the replicability and transfer of production protocols,” he tells GEN. “This ultimately strengthens the resilience and robustness of the industry as a whole.”