Bioprocessing must meet a wide range of demands, including the development of safe and effective therapies that are profitable. And it is increasingly expected to do so in sustainable ways.

In the introduction to Recent Advances in Bioprocess Engineering and Bioreactor Design, published earlier this year, Archana Vimal, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering at Integral University in Lucknow, India, and her colleagues wrote: “Besides umpteen useful traits, bioprocess technology still needs to overcome a large number of hurdles and possess an advantage over other competing methods such as chemical engineering to be viable in any specific industrial context.”

To Vimal and her colleagues, a key bioprocessing hurdle is “developing the enabling technologies for industry to fully utilize the potential of contemporary biology and chemistry through synthesis and innovation.” As if that’s not enough, these authors want tomorrow’s solutions to also be sustainable and more.

As they noted, the bioprocessing industry should incorporate “manufacturing processes into environmentally acceptable and financially viable process concepts, rapid purification and monitoring of purification processes to produce products of high-quality, high-purity, and consistent output are some of the challenges that bioprocess technology must overcome.”

Techno-economic analysis

For one aspect of economic sustainability in bioprocessing, Satya Eswari Jujjavarapu, PhD, an assistant professor in biotechnology at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Raipur in India, and Swasti Dhagat, PhD, a research scientist at SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions), explored the economics of fermentation, including techno-economic analysis (TEA). As they pointed out, “many online tools are available that help in evaluating the feasibility of a production process.”

To provide an example, these authors noted that Michael Lynch, MD, PhD, the W. H. Gardner, Jr. Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, developed a bioprocess TEA calculator.

“Techno-economic analysis connects R&D, engineering, and business,” Lynch explained in an article about his bioprocess TEA calculator. “By linking process parameters to financial metrics, it allows researchers to understand the factors controlling the potential success of their technologies.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge in bioprocessing is inherent in the name. It is a process. As shown here, many steps in bioprocessing need improvements, and tools exist to take on some of those challenges. Really, though, as bioprocessing jumps one hurdle, more will appear, often because of improvements in technology or evolving societal needs. It’s just the nature of the industry.

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