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The Benefits of Monitoring CO2 and O2 in Pharmaceutical

The Benefits of Monitoring CO2 and O2 in
Pharmaceutical Fermentation Processes
Knowing how much oxygen and carbon dioxide you have in bioprocesses
is essential to safety and contamination control, and can lead to process
efficiencies and higher yields.
By Tim Wilkes, Market Manager, Servomex, Inc.
Fermentation is commonly used for a variety of pharmaceutical production processes, such as
the production of recombinant therapeutic proteins in yeast and the biotransformation of
chemical drug intermediates to reduce the feedstock to the correct derivative. In some cases,
fermentation is used to create indirect gene products, including antibiotics and vitamins, while
elsewhere it is used for creating direct gene products — typically hormones, monoclonal
antibodies, proteins and antigens. As well as being employed for production, fermentation also
plays an important role in drug discovery, research and development.
Because of the nature of the products of fermentation and the potentially devastating impact of
impurities, FDA and EMEA closely regulate such processes. Strict monitoring and control of the
fermentation process is thus mandatory as well as necessary to indicate the possible presence of
impurities, perhaps as a result of a new strain of microorganism or a minor change in the
While off-line analysis can be used to meet the regulatory requirements, on-line monitoring
provides faster results and a further advantage in that it can be incorporated within the process
control system. With real-time data available, the process can be optimized, leading to increased
yields, shorter processing times and lower operating costs through, for example, reduced oxygen
consumption. On-line monitoring and real-time process control can also enhance process
reproducibility and lead to more consistent product quality.
As aerobic fermentation progresses, oxygen is consumed and carbon dioxide is released by the
cultures present, but the rates vary enormously, depending on the respiratory metabolism. In
those processes where oxygen is injected directly in addition to air injection (which is still
required for mixing the fermentation broth and stripping it of carbon dioxide and other
undesirable reaction by-products), the requirement for oxygen can be monitored and the supply
adjusted to suit.
A Novozymes technician checks a fermentation vessel. Photo courtesy of Novozymes.
Early in the fermentation process the demand for oxygen is low but, after an initial time lag,
culture growth becomes exponential and the oxygen addition should be boosted accordingly.
Once growth enters a stationary phase in the fermentation cycle, the oxygen injection can be
reduced in line with the requirement. Monitoring the level of carbon dioxide in the headspace
above the fermentation broth gives an indication of the biomass growth, which can be translated
into an oxygen demand by means of a mathematical correlation model.
It has been reported
that direct injection of oxygen can increase yields by as much as 65
percent while, at the same time, reducing operating costs, thereby offering pharmaceutical
manufacturers the potential to save millions of dollars.
To optimize the process, however, a fast response is needed from the carbon dioxide analyzer,
and parallel monitoring of the oxygen in the headspace indicates if the injected oxygen is
bubbling through the fermentation broth undissolved, which could be the case if supply exceeds
Furthermore, monitoring both carbon dioxide and oxygen and comparing the measurements
against a process model can give an almost immediate indication of any deviation from the
norm. This might be as a result of a minor problem with the process or a new impurity. Either
way, the early warning is beneficial in terms of product quality, plant efficiency and regulatory
Servomex has considerable experience measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide in pharmaceutical
processes through applications for its 4100 gas purity analyzer. One instrument can measure
both gases, with a paramagnetic sensor capable of measuring 0-100 percent oxygen and a
single-beam, single-wavelength (SBSW) infrared sensor to measure 0.25 to 100 percent carbon
dioxide, depending on the model selected. The Servomex 4100 is a high-accuracy instrument
that is fast, stable, reliable and requires minimal maintenance. As well as being FDA-validated
for medical oxygen and nitrogen, it also complies with European Pharmacopoeia requirements. If
required, Servomex can also supply gas conditioning systems and scanning systems
(multiplexers) that enable multiple fermenters to be monitored cost-effectively by a single
For more information about the Servomex 4100 analyzer and to discuss particular
pharmaceutical fermentation applications, contact Servomex on +44 1892 652181 or e-mail
[email protected]
Footnote: (1) How to make oxygen economical for fermentation, Dr. Alan T.Y. Cheng, Praxair
Inc., paper delivered to the 1998 Pharmaceutical Ingredients Worldwide (CPhI) Conference.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Editor s Note: What follows is the original text of How to make oxygen economical for
fermentation, a paper delivered to the 1998 Pharmaceutical Ingredients Worldwide (CPhI)
Conference by Dr. Alan T.Y. Cheng, Praxair Inc.
EMEA (European Agency for the
Evaluation of Medical Products)
EC Regulation EEC 2309/93 (The Community
procedures for coordinating the evaluation of safety, quality and efficacy of medical products for
human and veterinary use)
0 -100
0.25 -100
European Pharmacopoeia
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