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Dr. Kiana Aran Receives Research Gift from Agilent Technologies to Develop Real-Time Monitoring of Cell Cultures

Dr. Kiana Aran, Associate Professor of Medical Diagnostics and Therapeutics at Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) and Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cardea Bio, recently received a research gift from Agilent Technologies‘ university relations program to support her research on the topic of “Real-Time Monitoring of Bioproduction Product and Culture Health.”

The main goal of this project is to develop a scalable detection platform utilizing Cardea’s graphene-based BPU™ (Biosignal Processing Unit) platform to continuously monitor the quality and health of cell cultures.

Currently, a major challenge in antibody manufacturing process development is enabling continuous cell culture analysis to maintain the desired quality while reducing time to market, maintaining cost-effectiveness, and providing manufacturing flexibility. Current methods are costly and inefficient.

Conventional tools for cell culture media analysis require manual sampling and different steps of sample preparation. The sample collection process increases the contamination risk, and monitoring each cell culture bioreactor individually is a time-consuming process.

Thus, bioprocessing—both for the production of biopharmaceuticals and cell therapy manufacturing—can greatly benefit from automated, streamlined measurements to minimize the hands-on time required to make these critical cell-based products and therapies.

“The typical biomanufacturing process is a complex process that includes a cell culture process that generates the molecule of interest and a purification process to remove product-related impurities,” said Aran. “Successful development and implementation of technology infrastructure for real-time process monitoring at critical control points of this process can significantly improve quality and reduce the cost associated with loss of products as well as personnel required for comprehensive analytical testing off-line.”

Aran goes on to explain that another major advantage is that it provides a single platform to monitor multiple types of analytes, from glucose to protein-based biomarkers.

“Currently, multiple instruments are required to measure each of these biomarkers and the bioproducts,” Aran stated. “But using Cardea’s platform, all of them can potentially be analyzed using a single BPU.”

For the project, Aran will be working closely with Dr. Chong Wing Yung, the Associate Director for Agilent’s Research Programs, and Agilent Research Scientist Dr. Kristin Bernick.

“Through Agilent’s grant, we are excited to learn more about the application of her novel graphene-based semiconductors to the bioprocessing space,” Yung said. “This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to gain exposure to using this exciting technology to continuously monitor and measure key parameters of cell cultures over time. In addition, we look forward to growing our relationship with Professor Aran and KGI.”

Cardea’s BPU—a biocompatible semiconductor—can address these challenges by continuously sampling and monitoring the health of the cell culture in real-time. Therefore, their goal in utilizing BPUs is to increase the efficiency, sensitivity, and specificity of monitoring glucose metabolite, pH level, and antibody production in order to evaluate the cell performance, growing conditions, and ideal production environment. Another advantage of the proposed system is its automated nature, removing the need for continual human monitoring.

The project will draw upon prior results in which graphene-based transistors rapidly detected and quantified serum proteins such as cytokines in a small volume of plasma, with very high sensitivity and specificity, and without the need for secondary antibodies and optical labels. The sensitivity enabled by the biosensor platform dramatically reduces the sample volume and experimental complexity in comparison to standard quantitative methods, while the label-free nature of the detection platform significantly reduces the complexity and need for reagents.