Single-use technology for bioreactors has come a long way during the past 25 years, yet some of its capabilities remain to be exploited. Equipment manufacturers have adopted the technology as if it were an evolutionary step, but it is, in fact, revolutionary. Current offerings in single-use technologies often are not presented this way, however.
Single-use bioreactors currently follow one of two general formats. In one of these, the single-use components are used as linings for stainless-steel tanks. In a second model, a flexible bag is affixed to a rocker system that helps aerate and mix components inside the bag (1–3). Both of these models limit the value of single use systems, however.
Equipment manufacturers conduct extensive exercises to chart the future of bioprocessing methods, but the real judge of what is needed is the consumer. The development of large-scale bioreactors for the manufacture of commercial quantities of monoclonal antibodies and vaccines at an affordable cost and with a short development time would fill an unmet need. Therapeutic Proteins is looking at ways to meet this demand by incorporating a comprehensive bioprocessing unit capable of upstream and downstream processing inside a single bag without any moving parts. The company has filed or received dozens of US and worldwide patents for these inventions. In this way, the company hopes to spur the further evolution of single-use technologies.