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20th November 2019

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Biocatalysts Ltd Supporting the Next Generation of Biochemical Engineers

Presenting Real World Experiences at UCL Scenario Week (28/10/19 – 01/11/19)

Author: Davy Rowan, KTP Associate

University College London (UCL) use scenario weeks as part of their Biochemical Engineering course, to simulate industrial experience. This involves both laboratory experimentation and desk-based design work. The last week of October 2019 was the latest scenario week at UCL where 2nd year Biochemical Engineering students were given a sample of 200 mL of culture broth containing an enzyme for purification. They were required to design a 500,000 L downstream process based on their lab’ tests and the application of USD (Ultra Scale-Down) techniques.
This KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) has significant foundations upon USD techniques. Biocatalysts Ltd are rapidly adopting much of UCL’s USD methodology to enhance their scale-up and scale-down of processes from lab’ scale, to their recently installed factory extension providing up to 8,000 L of fermentation capacity. Given this emphasis, I have been involved in factory acceptance testing of large-scale equipment and will be involved both in the commissioning work and actual processing to ensure we can replicate the conditions at 8 m3 across our now multiple different scales. This will ensure that, at every design and process stage, we de-risk as much as possible by designing for large scale manufacture. This experience, and my part in transferring the USD methodology from UCL to Biocatalysts Ltd, made me the ideal industrial consultant for the UCL USD scenario week.
Biocatalysts Ltd were generous and happy to send both myself and their Principal Scientist, Mark Blight, as industrial consultants and speakers for the scenario week. I presented a summary of Biocatalysts capabilities, giving the students an outline on what we do, demonstrating all the work that goes alongside the process design that they must consider during their work at university and especially if they transition to industry. These considerations included: ensuring that product produce was stable during and after manufacture, that there would be enough to satisfy demand and what sort of reserve stock they may hold. Ensuring appropriate safety and environmental measures are taken to comply with regulations and customers’ expectations, considering whether the proposed product and it’s form actually meet the customer specifications. On the capabilities side of things, I outlined some of the scales we work at and the important parameters we examine to transition from one to the other. Mark Blight then expanded on some of these aspects and gave an excellent talk on the cutting-edge metagenomics technology MetXtra™ that Biocatalysts Ltd have developed to provide customers’ a rapid and cost-effective enzyme discovery system that produces 20 x 1-gram enzyme samples in 4 weeks. These talks proved invaluable to the students, which was demonstrated by much of the content being included and considered throughout the rest of the week and during the groups design presentations.

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This event was also an excellent opportunity for knowledge transfer, to get some of the leading minds in this field at UCL and Biocatalysts Ltd together to work on some KTP project issues and explore further potential collaborations off the back of the success already experienced through this project and others. During my Industrial Biotechnology MSc, Stuart West, the then Biocatalysts Ltd MD, gave a somewhat similar talk which put Biocatalysts Ltd on the map for me, and ultimately resulted in me applying and accepting this excellent opportunity. This week was a great professional development opportunity for me, and I was delighted to give others the same opportunity that I had, hopefully inspiring them to explore similar options in the future.

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