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Richardson Travel Bursary winner Lara Fernandez - Cerezo visits ACS 255th Annual Meeting

Lara Fernandez-Cerezo

16 April 2018

Lara Fernandez - Cerezo was awarded a 2018 Richardson Travel Bursary to attend the 255th American Chemical Society (ACS) Annual Meeting on 18-22 March 2018 in New Orleans, USA. Lara is an Engineering doctorate student at University College London. Here, she tells us about the networking opportunities that attending the conference provided her with.

'The American Chemical Society (ACS) 255th Annual Meeting took place over 18-22 March 2018 in New Orleans (LA, USA). This annual meeting was split into 32 divisions covering a wide range of chemistry-related research including biochemical technology (BIOT), this being the most relevant to my doctoral research project. The BIOT division in 2018 is chaired by Dr. Ranjan Srivastava (University of Connecticut) and the program for this conference was managed by Dr. Nihal Tugcu (MSD) and Prof. Maciek Antoniewicz (University of Delaware).

'By attending this conference, I gained a better insight into the status-quo in the bioprocessing field and where the research trends are shifting towards to investigate the existing gaps. The implementation of modelling tools combined with experimental work is becoming paramount to improve process understanding and ultimately, predict performance of full-scale operations. This will help develop molecule-specific processes for established products, as well as for new modalities. This concept has proven to be very stimulating and will help me complete my doctoral studies.

'It was a thought-provoking and insightful conference with participants in the BIOT session delivering approximately 300 oral presentations and 200 posters. The majority of the 20-minute oral presentation slots were delivered by industrialists’ scientific leaders while around a fifth of the spots were typically allocated to doctorate students or mid-level academic roles. Distinguished professors, all from North American universities, were selected to deliver half of the ten keynote presentations and five out of the seven award lectures. Most industrialists represented Big Pharma companies in the US including GlaxoSmithKline, MSD and Biogen although there were also representatives from biotech start-ups such as GoSilico GmbH. The majority of the academics came from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), University of Maryland (UMBC), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Delaware and Pennsylvania State University.

'The meeting was split into five main research interests: upstream processes, downstream processes, biomolecular and biophysical characterization, biomedical & emerging technologies, and end-to-end biomanufacturing. All participants, in particular the keynote speakers and award lectures, presented state of the art technologies discussing the most recent advances in their fields, as well as the direction of innovations and remaining challenges. 

'Prof. Silver from Harvard University (USA), a keynote speaker, showed how genome mining and reengineering tools could be used to produce opioids in yeast cells. She also discussed a method to artificially increase the rate of photosynthesis and ultimately, harvest solar power in which NASA has shown interest in. Another keynote speaker, Prof. Haynes from the University of British Columbia (Canada), gave a thorough overview of the latest trends in the development of biologics manufacturing processes. He focused on the need to enhance process understanding by, for example, investigating quality attributes and performing clone screening of therapeutic proteins using microscale technologies such as microfluidic reaction chambers.

'One of the first sessions featured the use of mechanistic modelling to aid process development. Dr. Hanke from Novartis (USA) showed an adjustable Henderson-Handelbach model to help decide on the type, the operating mode, and the order of the chromatography purification process using historic data. Dr. Benner from MSD (USA) proposed an explanation of the observed difference in pool volumes between micro-scale (Robocolumns) and lab-scale (AKTA®) using a general rate and lumped transport mechanistic model. Both Dr. Kunert from Amgen (USA) and Dr. Evans from MedImmune (USA) presented approaches to fit a mechanistic model using existing manufacturing-scale data and optimize the chromatographic design space. Dr. Huuk from GoSilico GmbH (Germany) showcased the popular ChromX software to streamline chromatographic design spaces in which resolution, capacity and binding can be maximized.

'The two most relevant sessions to my doctorate project were: ‘Automated technologies and high-throughput system in biologics production’, and ‘Advances in non-chromatographic separations: depth filtration and UF/DF operations’.

'In the first session, two doctoral students Ms. Deldari from UMBC and Ms. Crowell from MIT, described their work entailing the production of two proteins using a Bio-MOD device. This device attained on-demand manufacturing and real-time QA/QC claiming to produce a single purified dose in less than an hour. Their vision is to ultimately produce larger proteins and vaccines targeting orphan indications and precision medicines. Dr. Gagliardi from Shire (USA) discussed the modifications required to run a high-throughput micro-scale cell culture technology, AMBR15®, in perfusion mode to improve the comparability of cell environments between scales. Dr. Ghodbane from GSK (USA) underlined the automation capabilities of single-pass tangential flow filtration (SPTFF) in continuous processing. Dr. Cindy from Amgen (USA) featured the available high-throughput screening tools for formulation whilst highlighting the existing gaps to further improve robustness and data management in this critical stage.

'Prof. Zydney from Pennsylvania State University (USA) presented a novel counter-current continuous diafiltration technique during the session “Advances in non-chromatographic separations: depth filtration and UF/DF operations”. He emphasized the significant reduction in buffer requirements attained with this method. One of his doctoral students, Zhao Li, described the impact of the precipitant (PEG) concentration on the critical flux during tangential flow microfiltration. In this same session, Dr. Arunkumar from BMS (USA) and Ms. Adams from Biogen (USA) explained the benefits and disadvantages of single-use tangential flow filtration (SUTFF) over reusable TFF cassettes. Dr. Arunkumar reported a maximum concentration of 160 mg/mL with SUTFF cassettes when compared to 280 mg/mL achieved with a reusable TFF cassette. Ms. Adams focused on the cost reduction observed with SUTFF cassettes across the experimental design space tested whilst maintaining equivalent performance to a reusable TFF.

'All of the above talks were relevant to my EPSRC-funded engineering doctorate programme due to their emphasis on the development of modelling combined with high-throughput methods, highlighting benefits and limitations of microscale processing. I would like to thank SCI for their financial support which made it possible for me to attend this conference. The wide variety of networking events and career-focused talks were helpful for the career development of younger scientists, in particular for those like myself reaching final stages of a doctoral program.'

Lara Fernandez-Cerezo
Engineering doctorate student
University College London

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