Before moving a new drug into full-scale production, biopharmaceutical companies optimize the fermentation process to maximize the amount of therapeutic drug produced. Operation of these microbial fermentations involves controlling process set points, including temperature, nutrient feeds, oxygen transfer rates, and pH, in a bioreactor over several days. Developing the sophisticated control algorithms to manage these set points requires biochemical expertise. Subsequent implementation in a distributed control system can takes months, even for an experienced automation engineer.
Genentech, with assistance from MathWorks Consulting Services, has developed a MATLAB® based supervisory control platform that enables researchers to rapidly develop, simulate, and implement control algorithms. “When we lose a fermentation due to a control or algorithm problem, we feel that very keenly as a delay to our timeline,” says Dr. Ryan Hamilton, process researcher at Genentech. “MATLAB has accelerated algorithm development and provided a huge efficiency gain by enabling us to debug scripts step by step and run simulations against a bioprocess model.”