A model-based framework for parallel scale-down fed-batch cultivations in mini-bioreactors for accelerated phenotyping.Biotechnol Bioeng. 2019 11; 116(11):2906-2918.BB
Concentration gradients that occur in large industrial-scale bioreactors due to mass transfer limitations have significant effects on process efficiency. Hence, it is desirable to investigate the response of strains to such heterogeneities to reduce the risk of failure during process scale-up. Although there are various scale-down techniques to study these effects, scale-down strategies are rarely applied in the early developmental phases of a bioprocess, as they have not yet been implemented on small-scale parallel cultivation devices. In this study, we combine mechanistic growth models with a parallel mini-bioreactor system to create a high-throughput platform for studying the response of Escherichia coli strains to concentration gradients. As a scaled-down approach, a model-based glucose pulse feeding scheme is applied and compared with a continuous feed profile to study the influence of glucose and dissolved oxygen gradients on both cell physiology and incorporation of noncanonical amino acids into recombinant proinsulin. The results show a significant increase in the incorporation of the noncanonical amino acid norvaline in the soluble intracellular extract and in the recombinant product in cultures with glucose/oxygen oscillations. Interestingly, the amount of norvaline depends on the pulse frequency and is negligible with continuous feeding, confirming observations from large-scale cultivations. Most importantly, the results also show that a larger number of the model parameters are significantly affected by the scale-down scheme, compared with the reference cultivations. In this example, it was possible to describe the effects of oscillations in a single parallel experiment. The platform offers the opportunity to combine strain screening with scale-down studies to select the most robust strains for bioprocess scale-up.