Biomanufacturing is a new type of production that uses biological systems to construct commercially-relevant biomaterials to add to medicine, industrial applications and the food and beverage industry. Biomanufactured products are found in natural sources like cultures of microbes, blood or plant and animal cells that have been artificially grown in specialized equipment. The cells used in the production may have occurred naturally or through advanced genetic engineering techniques.
Most consumers are unaware that there are thousands of biomanufactured products available on the market today. They are classified by medicine, food and beverage and industrial applications. In the medicine field, amino acids, vaccines, cytokines, fusion proteins, growth factors, biopharmaceuticals and monoclonal antibodies all utilize biomanufactured products. Again, amino acids are biomanufactured for the food and beverage industry to improve the health of the food or drink. Other biomanufactured products found in this category are enzymes and protein supplements.
Finally, industrial applications that require cells or enzymes that are biomanufactured include biocementation, detergents, plastics and bioremediation. Biocementation is microbiologically-induced calcium carbonate precipitation which is commonly used in the treatment of concrete to prolong service life, as a result of the added calcium, as well as in bricks and fillers for plastics and ink. Bioremediation is a technique used in waste management that involves organisms neutralizing pollutants and other contaminants. The organisms break down hazardous substances into much less toxic (or non-toxic) materials.
Methods of Biomanufacturing
While there are many methods of biomanufacturing useful cells, the following are the most popular:
Blood Plasma Fractionation
Blood plasma fractionation is the process of separating components of blood plasma which is the liquid portion of the blood. It contains numerous proteins such as immunoglobulins and albumin as well as clotting proteins like fibrinogen. These are most commonly used in medicines to improve the immune system.
Cell culture is the process by which cells are grown in an artificial environment under controlled conditions. As previously mentioned, animal and plant cells are replicated and grown using this method in a culture dish. This is beneficial for medicines, supplements and enzymes.
Column chromatograph is the method used to purify chemical compounds from mixtures. This process is typically used for pharmaceuticals and medicines and offers the benefits of a relatively low cost and easily disposable.
Fermentation is the process known to produce alcohol. While this is a great process for a Saturday night, it also has functional purposes. Fermentation is a metabolic process converting sugar into gases, acids and alcohol. This is most important for the food and beverage industry as well as with industrial applications.
Homogenization is the process by which a biological sample is to a point in which all fractions are equal in composition. This is useful in medicine and industrial applications to create a balance amongst the cell constructions.
The ultrafiltration process involves the separation of solids and solutes with high molecular weights which need to be retained from the process. Low molecular weights pass through the semipermeable membrane. The process is used in drinking water, waste water treatment and other requirements for recycling processes.
Types of Equipment
The type of equipment and manufacturing facility requirements are dictated by the products being produced. The majority of process equipment is constructed from plastic or stainless steel because their chemical constructions do not interfere with process. Also, stainless steel is easy to clean and can be reused for other functions. Unfortunately some plastic equipment must be disposed of following a single use.
Those products manufactured for food and beverage or medical usage must be produced in a facility that has been designed within the confines of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations. In many instances, cleanrooms are required to control the particulates and microorganisms. Also, aseptic processing equipment and sterilization are required for any molecules that will be part of an injectable product.
Companies Leading the Way
The top five biotechnology companies in the world include:
One: Novo Nordisk
A Danish-based company with a revenue of over $85 billion. The company features production facilities in eight countries and offices in over 75 countries.
Based out of Thousand Oaks, California, Amgen is the world’s largest independent biotechnology company.
Three: Gilead Sciences
Established in Foster City, California, Gilead Sciences is an innovative company that develops and commercializes therapeutics and antiviral drugs.
Headquartered in Summit, New Jersey, Celgene manufactures drug therapies for inflammatory diseases and cancer.
Five: Biogen Inc.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Biogen Inc. is a global biotech company that specializes in treatments for neurodegenerative autoimmune and hematologic diseases for patients around the world.
Amazing New Products
The following are the newest products from biomanufacturing:
Absorbable Heart Stent
The absorbable heart stent, created by Abbott Laboratories in Illinois, has developed a bio-absorbable version of the traditionally-metal stent for the heart. A stent opens the arteries that have become blocked due to coronary artery disease. Stents typically release medication into the artery that eliminates narrowing. A bio-absorbable version does the job and then begins to dissolve after six months. Within two years, it has disappeared from the body leaving a healthy artery.
When nerve fibers cannot grow along injured spinal cords due to scar tissue, an injected liquid of nanogel can create microscopic scaffolds in the nanofibers. Peptides in the fibers instruct stem cells to produce new cells thus encouraging nerve development. The scaffold supports growth of axons along the entire spinal cord. This technology was developed by Northwestern University in Illinois.
Developed by Proteus Biomedical, the smart pill consists of sensors that track medication usage by recording the precise moment the drugs are ingested. The pill features sand-grain-size microchips that emit high frequency currents. On the skin, are Band-Aid-like receivers that log the data as well as respiration and monitor the heart rate. This information is wirelessly transmitted to a computer for analysis. Experts agree that to continuously improve pharmaceuticals, embedded digital technology must be utilized within the body and networked to receivers and computers outside of the body for thorough evaluation.