Biofuels, global warming, health care, and bioterrorism are some of the greatest challenges facing mankind. These can be successfully addressed only if a sufficient number of people are skilled in the area of bioprocessing. The successful culture of living cells to manufacture products (bioprocessing) will play an increasingly important role in our future. Even though there is an increasing demand for skilled bioprocessing professionals, there has been limited expansion in educational programs. Many of the current programs have labs that are decades out of date as compared to the leading industrial firms and fail to attract large numbers of students into the field.
Several projects are being conducted in the Amgen Bioprocessing Center:
- Development of an Antibody-Producing Cell Line: A major current aspect of Professor Croughan’s research is to develop cell lines, medium, and bioreactor protocols that reflect current industry approaches but are not proprietary and can be used in an academic setting. The lab is working with Professor Jennifer Maynard at the University of Texas at Austin to develop a CHO cell line engineered to make an antibody to whooping cough. This cell line is grown in chemically-defined medium, to very high densities, in fed-batch culture, just like the leading biopharmaceutical firms. The antibody produced will be used in animal efficacy studies through a collaboration with Professor Maynard and the NIH.
- Production of Beer, Wine and Mead: A second bioprocessing education project is to develop small-scale beer, wine, and mead making exercises that introduce students to professional bioprocessing and hopefully recruit them into the field. This strategy has proven to be successful and has also allowed for some fun and interesting tasting competitions. Collaboration with a local winery helps ensure that the lab employs state-of-the-art analytical equipment and protocols.
- Algae for Biodiesel Production: A third project is to develop very inexpensive lab exercises that can be employed in high school AP Environmental Science courses and thus introduce high school students to the field. A suitable system is under development involving the growth of algae for biodiesel production in disposable photobioreactors that can be assembled by students.
- Creation of New Curricular Materials and Textbooks for Bioprocessing Education: In conjunction with the introduction of three new courses in bioprocessing at KGI, extensive lab exercises have been developed in mammalian cell biotechnology and bioseparations. Co-authors are being recruited for a badly-needed textbook in industrial animal cell culture.