Despite the impending danger of the looming ash cloud from Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano, and with complete disregard for my own personal safety, I attended the second and final day of the 7th European Downstream Technology Forum earlier this week. Hosted at the Sartorius College in Goettingen, Germany, such was the quality of the speakers that most people simply forgot about the potential for travel mayhem and focused entirely on the subject at hand.
There was an emphasis on disposable systems and antibody purification, with presentations given by scientists from around the world detailing their experiences, both in terms of successes and challenges. Although the event was hosted by Sartorius Stedim Biotech, the very charismatic Dr. Uwe Gottschalk, vice president purification technologies, was keen to point out that it was “not a brainwashing seminar!” He insisted that the seminar be open, and that it should allow people to come together, share case studies and help solve industry problems no matter the technology involved. Indeed, as John Milne, technical manager at BioUetikon, noted in his presentation, it was in some way refreshing to see that companies faced many of the same challenges irrespective of scale.
Speaking of scale, Octapharma’s Sandeep Kristiansson delivered a very detailed yet succinct lecture on process upscale and use of disposables in protein purification. So clear was the lecture, that it was the only one of the day to receive no probing questions at its conclusion. In addition to noting the familiar concept that traditional “stationary” equipment has distinct advantages in one-product facilities, he touched upon the need to consider environmental impact on all levels. Despite the disposable nature of single use technology, he pointed out that this was not the only environmental factor, and that time, energy and water used in cleaning stationary equipment should also be taken into account.
The atmosphere was purposeful yet friendly and informal, and a number of the lecturers enjoyed describing the delights of their own sites’ particular location. Yun Kang, head of protein purification at ImClone, quipped that the view from his new site laboratory in New York was so engaging that they had to pull down the window blinds to restore staff productivity. He went on to deliver an outstanding lecture on the development of an alternative monoclonal antibody polishing platform using Sartobind STIC, which triggered some interesting questions and an obvious reluctance, in one case, to provide sensitive information: “It’s a secret” he said, “but you could probably guess…”
The final lecture of the day took us to India where Dr. Ashok Patra of Panacea Biotec has developed a new process for purification of H1N1 influenza virus using Sartobind Q, a feat achieved in a matter of weeks rather than months. It was certainly a proof of concept that may make people rethink standard processes.
Dr. Gottschalk concluded that the delegates were “one community” with a limited number of people facing the same challenges in potentially different applications, and that information disclosure was key to helping the industry move forward.
Thank you to Elke Giebler for her regular updates on “the situation” throughout. And special acknowledgment is due to Hannover airport for remaining open for my flight back to Manchester, in contrast to Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg whose passengers were less fortunate.