It requires the cultivation in submerged culture of an identified micro-organism (mainly bacterial) as a monoculture under defined environmental conditions. The incubation regime imposed is designed to maximize the productivity of the organism of interest by providing optimal conditions for population growth (biomass). The product of interest might be a bioactive metabolite or recombinant protein.
During an incubation cycle a nutrient energy source (e.g. glucose) is added and the biomass and end product will increase as this is depleted.
Incubation control necessitates the precise control of a number of parameters.
Of primary importance are:
Temperature, pH, DO2 or Redox, agitation, pressure, foam control, auxiliary feed or a combination of these controllers.
The control of these and any other parameters is most usually carried out in fermenter vessels specifically designed for the purpose and accommodating various working volumes depending on the yield and production requirements. Laboratory scale vessels could have a capacity of just 10 litres or less whereas production vessels may be as large as several thousand liters.
The smallest units may incorporate an electrical heater and feed stocks (e.g. Nutrient and pH control agents) may be fed from flasks via peristaltic pumps. Larger vessels have an integral jacket for controlling temperature via hot or cold water and allowing indirect sterilisation using injected steam. Where larger quantities of feed stock are required they may be held in separate pressurized tanks and fed via a ‘thrust pump’ arrangement of valves.
The actual fermentation process is known as the Incubation Phase and is just part of the batch cycle. A complete fermentation cycle can typically include the following steps (depending on vessel design):
The R&D and Clinical Trials environments in which many small scale fermenters operate are such that it is not possible to predict the nature of any particular fermentation process either in terms of culture or incubation conditions. Production facilities must also cater for a variety of products each having precisely defined incubation profiles.
A control system must therefore provide flexibility in the way in which accurate and repeatable control of the fermentation environment is achieved and will include the following features:
The EyconTM Visual Supervisor is an ideal solution for the fermentation process.