If you were listening to the SWR this week, you probably heard about AUCTEQ Biosystems and their product: a growing bioreactor for cell cultures in biopharmaceutical production. In 2019 the Mannheim-based start-up won the EIT Health Headstart programme and went on to receive the Gründerpreis Baden-Württemberg 2020. Recently, their co-founder Valentin Kramer was invited to present their solution during an SWR2 broadcast, one of the major cultural and scientific broadcasts in the region.
The production of most vaccines and biopharmaceuticals is in fact very complex. The process involves active substances that are not obtained through chemical synthesis, but with the help of bacteria, fungi or mammalian cells. In biopharmaceutical processes, drug manufacturing cells are cultured in bioreactors of up to 10,000 litres. In order to start such a bioreactor, a certain volume of cell culture and specific conditions are required for optimal cell growth. It is common practice to transfer the cell strains from a smaller to a larger vessel between 6 to 8 times. These manual transfer steps involve a high risk of contamination and require high labour capacities, as well as produce a lot of plastic waste.
With their expandable disposable bioreactor, AUCTEQ reduces all manual transfer steps to a single step, allowing the process to take place in a single reactor, reducing disposal as well as environmental costs. Additionally, their solution increases the efficiency of biopharmaceutical production processes by reducing contamination risks and required labour capacity.
During the broadcast, Co-founder Valentin Kramer shared how the idea for the bioreactor came about and gives an insight into the early stages of the company as well as his personal experiences: “At the very beginning, I really tinkered and mixed everything together in the kitchen and did the very first experiments with sugar water and yeast, because I thought to myself if this doesn’t work, I might as well abandon the idea.”
AUCTEQ is currently in the process of making plans for the serialisation of its bioreactors, which – through machine manufacturing and quality testing – will ensure the quality of the bioreactors is consistent and approved. This is an aspect that Valentin Kramer recognises as particularly important for the pharmaceutical industry.
Take a look at the audio and corresponding article here.