The focus is on the translation of bioprocessing concepts into microfluidic or mesofluidic systems, using our expertise in advanced microfabrication techniques for polymers, glass and silicon.
“Scale-down approaches have long been applied in bioprocessing to resolve scale-up problems. Miniaturized bioreactors have thrived as a tool to obtain process relevant data during early-stage process development. Microfluidic devices are an attractive alternative in bioprocessing development due to the high degree of control over process variables afforded by the laminar flow, and the possibility to reduce time and cost factors. Data quality obtained with these devices is high when integrated with sensing technology and is invaluable for scale-translation and to assess the economical viability of bioprocesses. Microfluidic devices as upstream process development tools have been developed in the area of small molecules, therapeutic proteins, and cellular therapies. More recently, they have also been applied to mimic downstream unit operations.”
Current Opinion in Chemical Engineering 2017, 18:61–68
Microfluidics at UCL Biochemical Engineering
Our research is collaborative and connects us with applications in cell & gene therapy and food science (microfluidic platforms for adherent cells), bio-pharmaceuticals (microfluidic platforms for suspension cultures), industrial and medical biotechnology (enzymatic microreactors).
We have developed microfluidic systems across all the research areas of the Department of Biochemical Engineering.
Cell & gene therapy and food science
Research in this area encompasses the development of microfabricated devices for adherent cell cultures, T-cells and 3-D cellular structures. Emphasis is placed on the integration of non-invasive analytical techniques (such as optical sensors and quantitative imaging) to monitor and control critical process parameters during cell culture.
The current generation of multiplexed instrumented devices has been successfully applied to a wide variety of cell lines (CHO, fibroblasts, mESCs, hESCs, hIPSCs, HEK293, CAR T-cells). We are now expanding the capacities of our devices towards on-chip cell reprogramming, virus vaccine development and drug discovery.
We have developed microfluidic technology for bio-based manufacturing processes by developing microscale processing toolboxes which underpin rapid and high content screening of process conditions and the establishment of resource-efficient processes. These technologies enable the study of whole process sequences on a micro- or mesoscale (such as trains of unit operations). These microfluidic systems are now translated to larger systems (scale-up) in order to demonstrate the utility of flow biocatalysis for sustainable manufacturing.
Research in the production of therapeutic proteins focuses on the design and fabrication of microfluidic bioreactors for batch, fed-batch and continuous fermentation. Different microbioreactor designs have been developed and characterised for applications in Synthetic Biology.
Currently, we are assessing our fermentation systems in regards to linking them with larger-scale systems. We are also interested in the multiplexing of microbioreactors and in the development of optical systems for the monitoring of fermentation compounds.