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Flow Technologies in Bioscience Review

Published: Monday, October 29, 2012
Last Updated: Monday, October 29, 2012
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The conference highlighted the importance of collaboration between chemists, biologists, material scientists, IT and mechanical engineers, and of course equipment vendors to increase the effectiveness of flow technologies within Bioscience.

Microsaic Systems presented at ‘Flow Technologies in Bioscience’ organised by Labstract and held at the newly opened Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst Innovation centre.

Suki Klair, CEO at Labstract organised a stimulating agenda of speakers with a focus on enabling new applications via flow technologies.

Steve Jordan, Head of R&D, Biotage chaired the event and set the scene by commenting that continuous processing was gaining ground within the pharma industry and welcomed the speakers who ranged from academic thought leaders in flow, including Professor Steve Haswell, University of Hull, to equipment vendors including Microsaic Systems.

Many people are still on the fence about the benefits of flow chemistry, and in some cases it doesn’t make sense to change processes that are working in batch. However, as chemists search for more novel transformations they are forced to look at hazardous transformations such as ozonolysis and diazotisation and this is where flow chemistry can provide significant safety improvements to batch methods. Flow technology is here to stay. It will not replace batch chemistry but it does provide another tool in the chemist’s tool box.

Syrris highlighted a compelling example of this from the BOSS group in Rio de Janeiro where flow through a biocatalyst had increased catalyst efficiency by 10 times, compared to batch. They also mentioned a new electrochemistry module that will be available next year. Electrochemistry is a lost art so a database of reactions will be built up by key users and shared by Syrris on their website.

Matt O’Brien, Keele University talked about his time in the Ley lab, University of Cambridge where gas-liquid reactions have been successfully performed safely in flow with hazardous gases such as ozone using the innovative tube-in-a-tube reactors available from Uniqsis and Cambridge Reactor Design.

Bryan McCullough, Microsaic showed the first example of mass spectrometry being used to monitor a flow reaction which was jointly published with the Ley group, University of Cambridge. Mass spectrometry is not new, but the new miniature MS, the MiD fits in a fumehood, giving chemists access to this useful technique. Both Mettler Toledo, manufacturer of the Flow-IR and Microsaic showed that using on-line monitoring can greatly increase reaction understanding. The Ley group uses these technologies to increase the speed of reaction optimisation and identify new reaction intermediates and pathways.

Chris Selway gave us an insight into what is happening at Cyclofluidic. Their novel synthesis platform allows compounds to be synthesised from a set of pre-loaded monomers, purified, analysed, and then injected into a biological assay. Their algorithm “learns” which compounds are most potent and the computer decides which compound to make next. Each cycle takes 1 hour and over a weekend a candidate compound can be found. This is “closing the loop” of drug discovery, enabled by flow technologies.

Professor Steve Haswell, University of Hull is at the cutting edge of lab-on-a-chip technologies and highlighted the potential use of functionalised microfluidic devices that could be used by police and doctors for point-of-use applications. It was interesting to hear that regulatory bodies are positive about these new, disruptive technologies and actually the barrier-to-entry is the institutions who will resist change, in spite of cost and time savings.

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