Bioreactors for life science applications


KEU-BA Bioreactors

Technology abstract

A small medium enterprise based in Italy, under the aegis of the ESA, has developed a consistent number of bioreactors dedicated to the support and the scientific protocol execution of space biology experiments, performed in microgravity. The company offers a portfolio of bioreactors and related know-how on the design and development of tailor-made devices for the automatic cultivation of biological specimens for terrestrial applications.

The proposed technology and knowhow derive from the provider years-long heritage in designing and developing semi or fully automatic bioreactors. These devices are currently used to perform life science experimentations in space with the aim to understand the effects of space flight on biological systems. Nevertheless, thanks to the company consolidated experience on the development of tailor-made bioreactors, these can be easily adapted to applications where cell or tissue growth is envisioned.

- Alessandra Masini -

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Technology Description

The bioreactors developed by the Italian small medium enterprise reduce a laboratory into a hand-sized electromechanical device dedicated for life science research experiments to be performed on space platforms, such as ISS. They allow the autonomous execution of a scientific protocol, being designed to contain the cell culture and all the chemicals (culture medium, chemical treatments, wash buffers, fixatives, etc..) required by the experiment. The bioreactors contain a cell culture chamber that hosts the sample, either a 2D or 3D cell culture, tissues or small animals. The cell culture is connected with fluidic (either micro or meso-fluidic) paths, connecting reservoirs containing culture liquids for medium refreshments or culture treatments. Exhausted media and fluids are than collected in dedicated reservoirs. The cross contamination among the culture chamber, media reservoirs and waste reservoirs is granted by the use of valves, gaskets and O-rings. The bioreactors are coupled with dedicated containers developed to contain any spillage from the bioreactors, and are connected with temperature-controlled chambers with data logging capabilities. The bioreactor could be coupled with potentially any kind of sensors or devices for the monitoring of cell and tissue growth or homeostasis. The years-long heritage in designing and developing successful semi or fully automatic bioreactors operating in non-terrestrial environment and conditions has brought to the company a competitive knowledge and know-how related to automatic systems supporting cell and tissue growth and treatments. The company know-how in space products could be easily translated in pharmaceutical, biotechnological or medical applications where cell or tissue growth is envisioned, such as: cell therapeutics or stem cells for regenerative medicine, cell-based drug screening, cell factories development for cellular products production, tissue factories, biotechnological applications of cell products (food and beverage), etc..

Innovations & Advantages

Prevailing technologies rely on having devices that use standard size for different components, for example culture chamber, fluidic pathways and sensors. In general, the experiment or product needs to be designed around the device and not vice-versa. In this way the experiment or product requires a dedicated budget in terms of finance and time in order to establish the more appropriate conditions for cell cultures. The innovative aspects of the technology herein proposed rely on having fully automated devices (bioreactors) supporting cell growth that are tailor-made for the customer application and needs. This allows greater flexibility in terms of experiments technical and economic feasibility. Furthermore, considering that the proposed bioreactors are fully or semi-automatic in their use, these devices are easy to use but also robust in term of protocol execution at the same time.

Further Information

Standard bioreactors are made by a microcrystalline biocompatible plastic withstanding typical range of temperatures used in cell cultures, from 121°C for sterilization in autoclaves to -80°C for culture freezing. Other components of the bioreactors are also fully compatible with sterilization via autoclaves or sanitation with commonly used chemicals.

Current and Potential Domains of Application

Current application of this technology is biological research in space missions.
Potential domains of applications on ground are pharmaceutical industry, biotechnological or medical industry, public or private research centers and university, food and beverage industry.