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Single-Use Airlift Bioreactor Saves Researchers Time and Money When Growing Cell Cultures

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A device created by Dundee-based Cellexus International is making it faster and cheaper for scientists to grow delicate cell cultures for their research.

The CellMaker single-use airlift bioreactor generates bubbles that percolate through the mixture, producing a gentle mixing action for even the most delicate cell cultures, rather than using harsher mechanical stirred bioreactors.

The bioreactor includes a precision controller unit produced by Livingston-based electronics manufacturing firm CB Technology, which makes the process more reliable by reducing the amount of damage to cells, increasing the yield and improving the precision and efficiency of the technique.

Each production run takes place inside a single-use bag, which is then swapped for a fresh bag for the next run, reducing the time in between processes and removing the need to sterilise the machine with expensive chemicals.

The unit can be fitted out as a dual controller, which can manage two enclosures running the same or different processes simultaneously. The system allows businesses to scale-up from one- or two-litre flasks to a single CellMaker or multiple devices to increase their cell production. Additionally, the CellMaker bioreactor has a small footprint in the laboratory, where space is often at a premium.

The technology currently supports microbial and bacteriophage applications, with development work taking place to extend its reach into mammalian cells and stem cells, along with applications in the cell and gene therapy, antibody, and clean meat industries.

Gavin Hands, chief executive at Cellexus, said: “Unveiling the CellMaker is an important step for both our company and our customers.

“It marks the next stage in our development as we continue to scale-up Cellexus, and it opens the door for researchers to grow even the most delicate cell cultures reliably and with less downtime.

“Partnering with CB Technology to produce the precision controller unit for the CellMaker was a key factor – we were very impressed with its portfolio of work and capabilities, especially its expertise in producing complex, high-reliability system assemblies.

“The robust, repeatable build process that CB Technology has developed for the production of the CellMaker bioreactor gives Cellexus peace of mind in terms of its reliability and precision control, freeing up my team to focus on product development.”

The CellMaker currently has eight-litre and 50-litre enclosures, which can handle working volumes of between 1.5 litres and 50 litres.

Cellexus is now developing a 100-litre enclosure, thanks to a development grant from Innovate UK, the UK Government agency previously known as the Technology Strategy Board.

John Cameron, managing director at CB Technology, added: “Scotland has a proud history of leading the world in science and technology and I’m excited that CB Technology has engaged with Cellexus and is continuing that tradition.

“Devices like the CellMaker bioreactor give scientists the key tools that they need to solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity, from developing new medicines and vaccines through to producing bacteriophages as alternatives to antibiotics in the agricultural industry.

“Working with cutting-edge life sciences companies like Cellexus is an important and growing part of CB Technology’s business.”