Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Death to Cell Culture Spreadsheets!

I've been around a few cell culture operations in my time... fermentation, too. And ubiquitous to virtually every operation - be it lab, plant or pilot-plant - are these Excel spreadsheets where research assistants or operators input "cell count" data.

A "cell count" is when a sample of the cell culture fluid is taken from the miniferm/bioreactor. This sample prepped with trypan blue, dropped on a hemocytometer and counted by an operator under a microscope.

Pipetting fluids into a hemocytometer by Jacopo Werther

The trypan blue is absorbed by the carcasses of dead cells while an integral cell membrane of the live cell is impervious to trypan blue.

The operator counts the number of blue dots (dead cells), the number of clear dots (live cells) and thus determine the viability (% of live cells).

From the total number of cells and the sample volume, the operator can estimate the total cell population in the bioreactor.

Also while we have this fresh cell culture sample, a small volume is separately sent through machines that determine the concentration of glucose, lactate, sodium and ammonium, pO2, pCO2 as well as the pH and osmolality.

All this cell count and cell culture metabolite data gets inputted into spreadsheets where we can compute the rate of cell growth so that we can figure out when to transfer/harvest the cell cultures.

Because of the detailed data, these spreadsheets become the crown jewels of process understanding. Cell growth and metabolite profiles at large-scale are benchmarked against their small-scale equivalents. New experimental designs are determined from the results of data from the previous experiment.

And all this is possible because of these cell culture spreadsheets.

The thing is, there are severe limitations to running your core enterprise information this way: spreadsheets are not a viable way to manage data: databases are.

And it is for this reason that we are creating the world's first commercial off-the-shelf cell culture database to manage this core data.

Built by cell culture engineers for cell culture engineers.

Sign up for the beta

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