Maximizing Yields of Plasmid DNA Processes - High cell density processes can produce high yields without compromising quality. - BioPharm International


Maximizing Yields of Plasmid DNA Processes
High cell density processes can produce high yields without compromising quality.

BioPharm International Supplements

Growth Rate Options

High growth rates, close to the maximum theoretical growth rate of E. coli in glucose-based media, were used in some early experiments. High growth rates often result in overfeeding, which may in turn result in detrimental acetate accumulation in the culture.3 Several exponential growth rates were evaluated with the best results observed at lower growth rates. This is to be expected for a number of reasons. There is little risk of substrate overfeeding with lower growth rates because the feed is added at a controlled rate that has been optimized such that glucose is consumed quickly upon addition. This minimizes the risk, allowing waste products (such as acetate) to accumulate to levels that may become detrimental to growth. Lower growth rates also have been shown to allow plasmid replication to synchronize with cell division resulting in higher percentages of supercoiled plasmid and better plasmid stability. Both defined and feedback-controlled growth rates were evaluated. For typical plasmids, less than 10 kB in size, production levels often exceed 1 g/L. In the production of larger plasmids, fed-batch cultures are grown to lower cell densities (A600 = 40–80) because slower growth rates are often required for optimal production. Yields can be much lower (75–100 mg/L), but are 50–80 times higher than what is achieved in batch fermentation. Moreover, there are several commercial advantages in using a lower growth rate. Our HCD strategy uses a lower growth rate that is timed for a single shift operation.


Table 1. The high cell density process met specifications in all assays
In addition to achieving goals such as increasing cell density and plasmid yield per gram of cell paste, the HCD process that we have developed has successfully demonstrated that it can also maintain plasmid quality. Specifically, our process has shown that it can meet standard release specifications for clinical and commercial grade products (Table 1).


A number of parameters have been evaluated in adaptation of a high cell density process for plasmid DNA production. In the evaluation, special consideration was made to ensure that the quality of the plasmid DNA was not compromised. It was established that industry and regulatory specifications may be achieved using the HCD process. This objective was balanced with the need to develop a cost-effective process that can be used to produce larger quantities of these products that will be required at commercial launch. A fed-batch fermentation strategy using minimal media fed at a predefined rate produced the highest yields without compromising quality.

Marvin Peterson, PhD, is the director of biologics manufacturing and Bill Brune is a senior process engineer at Althea, San Diego, CA, 858.882.0123,


1. US Food and Drug Administration. Guidance for industry. Guidance for human somatic cell therapy and gene therapy. Rockville, MD; 1998 Mar.

2. O'Kennedy RD, Baldwin C, Keshavarz-Moore E. Effects of growth medium selection on plasmid DNA production and initial processing steps. J Biotechnol. 2000 Jan 21;76(2–3):175–83.

3. Thatcher DR, et al. Method of Plasmid DNA Production and Purification. US Patent 6,503,738 (Cobra Therapeutics, Ltd., Keele, UK) 2003 Jan 7.

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