Fermentation is a chemical process by which microorganisms convert a substrate into a useful product or products, called microbial fermentation products. It occurs naturally during digestion, where bacterial microbes in the large intestine help to convert the contents of the bowel to nutrients that can be absorbed through the lining.
To produce biological molecules, a microbe that makes the desired product – such as an antibody fragment or plasmid DNA – is grown in a controlled environment. Microbial fermenters (sometimes written as fermentors) provide this control. The options are glass fermenters, stainless steel fermenters, and single-use vessels with bags that don’t require sterilization before use. Controlled fermentation has the following features:
- Conditions that minimize the risk of contamination with other organisms
- Controlled temperature – to remove excess heat generated during the run
- Optimal agitation to keep cells suspended
- Monitored pH and dissolved gases
Microbial fermenters FAQs
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about fermentation and microbial fermenters.
What is industrial microbial fermentation?
Industrial microbial fermentation is the deliberate use of fermentation processes by microorganisms like fungi and bacteria to make products. The food and beverage industry relies on fermentation to make fermented foods like kimchi and drinks that contain ethanol. Other industries, such as the biopharmaceutical industry, also use fermentation.
How is fermentation used in making biologics?
Microorganisms such as E. coli and yeast undergo fermentation to produce biologics like plasmid DNA and therapeutic proteins.
How is microbial fermentation different from cell culture?
In fermentation, microorganisms are grown in the absence of oxygen (i.e., in anaerobic conditions). For biologics production, this process makes therapeutic molecules that don’t require specific post-translational modifications like a particular glycosylation pattern. In cell culture, mammalian or insect cells are grown in aerobic conditions. Complex biologics are usually produced in cell culture.
What is a single-use fermenter?
Compared with stainless steel or glass, single-use fermenters don’t need to be sanitized between runs. Single-use microbial fermenters use disposable bags and tubing assemblies that are changed out each time. With single-use equipment, you’ll spend less time on equipment preparation and qualification before you start each run. And you’ll also minimize the routine maintenance and requalification of your equipment.
Cytiva’s single-use fermentors
Xcellerex™ XDR MO microbial fermentors are developed by users for users. We’ve verified performance with microorganisms such as E. coli, Pseudomonas, and yeast. We use the know-how we gain to support customers and continually improve the single-use fermenter portfolio.
XDR fermentor applications
- Plasmid DNA production – to make mRNA and viral vectors
- Production of antibody fragments
- Bacterial vaccine manufacturing
- Scaling up an E. coli upstream process for plasmid DNA production
See a comparison of Cytiva’s single-use fermentor with a stainless steel vessel.