CEP: Process Automation Corner - Biotech Makes Inroads into Industrial Chemicals

March
2013

If you manage to stay afloat long enough, past associations inevitably resurface. At a recent Société de Chimie Industrielle luncheon, I reconnected with a client who I hadn’t seen in almost 30 years. In 1983, I was retained by an investment banker to evaluate the commercial prospects of BioChem Technology, a firm founded by William B. Armiger operating in an industrial park outside of Philadelphia, PA. BioChem primarily made tools for biotech manufacturers, which was virgin territory 30 years ago. One tool caught my fancy — an optical probe for fermentation vessels. The probe, called FluoroMeasure, was designed to monitor a fluorescent marker closely associated with fermentation broth metabolism.

Fermentor respiration rates have been monitored via offgas analysis with onstream mass spectrometers for several decades, but in situ mobile-phase assays are still rare. FluoroMeasure was 20 years ahead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s process analytical technology (PAT) Initiative.

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