UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering


Research facilities and access

Access our pilot plant facilities and expertise for industrial or academic contract work or collaboration.

About us

The unique facilities of the £30m Advanced Centre for Biochemical Engineering (ACBE) pilot plant contain a range of equipment that allows whole bioprocess sequences to be run at both bench and pilot scale. They are supported by four technical staff with extensive experience of equipment operation and industrial collaboration.

These facilities can be accessed by commercial companies, e.g. spin-outs and SMEs, or academic research groups who are in the early stages of developing bioprocesses for products such as therapeutics or industrially relevant enzymes. Use of these facilities can be attractive for early assessment of the potential to scale up activities for full-scale manufacture.

What we can offer

The ACBE facilities and expertise can be accessed to support early-stage industry or academic groups focused on the generation of larger quantities of material, process development and scale-up evaluation. We offer a transition between early-stage development and larger commercial-scale service providers such as Contract Manufacturing Organisations (CMOs) or Catapult centres. 

We work closely with our clients from initial enquiries to properly understand their requirements and develop a work package that will suit their needs. 

We aim to help organisations that need access to equipment and know-how to develop their process and carry out initial pilot-scale studies. We provide access/use of equipment(s) and the necessary technical support. The work can take the form of short consultancy projects or industry-academic translational research collaborations.

Our equipment capabilities 

The ACBE facility contains a range of upstream and downstream bioprocess equipment for use with a range of expression systems i.e. bacterial, yeast, mammalian cells. This is complemented by state-of-the-art analytical equipment for process monitoring and characterisation.

Upstream process (USP)

Laboratory-scale bioreactors for process development or generate small amounts of material. Our 250 mL glass or single-use bioreactors (Eppendorf DASbox and Sartorius ambr250 modular) allow us to screen/test different fermentation parameters on biomass and product yield. 

Pilot-scale bioreactors for process scale-up and/or generate larger amounts of material. 
Our to 2 x 20 L (Sartorius Biostat Cplus) and 1 x 100 L (Sartorius Biostat D-DCU) bioreactor provide greater process capacity and material for DSP. 

Also a range of mammalian bioreactors, 250 mL Eppendorf DASbox to 50 L Sartorius CultiBag (information on request)

Downstream process (DSP)

  • Pilot-scale disc stack and tubular bowl centrifuges
  • Mechanical cell disruption: APV Gaulin homogenisers at a range of scales
  • Depth and crossflow filtration 
  • Ultra scale-down
  • Pilot-scale chromatography
  • Laboratory spray dryer 
  • Freezer dryer

The team and our experience

Practical activity is led by Dr Lourdes Velez (dedicated lead and point of contact), Dr Gareth Manall, Dr Michael Sulu and supported by the academics from the department who provide consultancy services in specific areas.  A further staff member, Dr Brian O’Sullivan, deals with project safety evaluation and the department has a dedicated Project Officer who is able to rapidly deal with contracts and agreements.

Contact Us 

Lourdes Velez
Research Facility Contracts Manager

Terms and conditions

Access and costing are done case-by-case basis, project agreements are negotiated through UCLC