How does bioprocessing work?
To create any kind of product using bioprocessing, scientists have to follow a particular workflow. Of course, there is some variation to the workflow depending on the desired product, but generally, bioprocessing follows these steps:
1. Sample collection - Before bioprocessing can begin, scientists need to gather the living organisms that produce the desired product, whether that's living cells, enzymes, bacteria or something else. The sample is then stored in a 'seed bank', where it will be kept alive until it's required for stage 2.
2. Cultivation of the sample - It's unlikely that scientists will have a large enough sample of the living organism to create the volume of desired product that they need. In order to scale up the initial sample, the living organisms are cultivated.
3. Culturing the cells - This is where things get interesting. The sample organisms are put into ideal conditions for them to start producing the desired molecules or product. It's vital that bioprocessing scientists monitor the cells carefully and do whatever they can to maximise the yield. After all, bioprocessing can be an expensive and lengthy process.
4. Harvesting - Once the biological process has taken place, scientists need to carefully separate the original sample cells from the desired product. This process is called 'harvesting'. Occasionally, the desired product will be produced inside the sample cells, at which point scientists refer to the separation process as 'recovery'.
5. Purification - To make sure that the product is clean and safe for use, scientists will take time to remove impurities, salts, solvents and will even check for viruses. This is vital, especially if the final product will be used to treat sick patients. There's always a chance of contamination when you're working with living cells, so this is a vital step!
6. Testing - Before being packaged and sent to the general public, scientists need to check that the harvested product does what it's supposed to do. Bioprocessing specialists will test the molecules and decide what the safest and most effective way to administer them is. This could include suspending the desired product in an aerosol, powder or liquid suspension.
7 - Packaging - Once the scientists are happy with the final product, it's packaged and labelled up ready to be transported to its final destination, whether that be a hospital,