Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cell Culture Engineers are #Keynesians

It occurred to me today that the cell culture/fermentation engineers are to genetically engineered cells what Keynesian economists are to the modern economy.

This is not to say that cell culture/fermentation engineers are charlatans... but if you were a CHO cell, you'd certainly suspect that cell culture engineers don't exactly have your best interests in mind.

You see, the purpose of large-scale cell culture is not, in fact, to sustain a viable biological system.

We know this because at the end of every production culture, the cells are sent down the drain and suicided in the waste kill system. After outliving their usefulness, the cells are... in fact... waste.

The fact of cell culture is that we are replicating a biological system in a stainless steel tank - a phony environment... stimulating the culture with nutrient-rich media so that the cells can engage in the phony economy of secreting the active pharmaceutical ingredient.

We start with eugenics in the seed cultures. This is where we maintain a high copy count of the genes that produce the active pharmaceutical ingredient. Should an offspring be unable to produce enough API, it will die off from being in selective media. The genetic composition of the cell population is thereby controlled.

We then start a series of stimulate/bailout where we transfer the culture into successively larger volumes. When they've consumed their finite resources and polluted their environment, we bail them out into a larger volume.

The ultimate endgame happens at the production scale where we grow the cells beyond the carrying capacity of the culture - crashing their economy and population - so that we can harvest the fruits of their labor.

As cells don't have feelings or livelihoods, I don't feel so badly as a fermentation engineer. These cells were engineered by us for exactly one reason and the end result tends to be life-saving molecules to treat and cure human disease.

But were I a modern economist advising a stimulate/bailout path-forward so the politicians can get re-elected, I'd be a bit more responsible.

The catastrophic collapse of a population and its economy is as predictable as it is scientifically repeatable.  

No comments: