Chemical Engineers Completely Simulate Penicillin Production

Microorganisms have long been used to help humans carry out various processes such as brewing and the production of antibiotics, but these processes remain very complex, with bioreactors seen as “black boxes” that are difficult to manipulate and control. But that has begun to change, given the news of researchers in  Vienna who have completely analyzed and simulated the entire process of penicillin production.

The researchers, working at Austria’s TU Wien, looked at the entire process for creating penicillin to determine the equations that describe it. Since it is hard to directly measure many parameters vital to the process, they use accessible data from the production process in real time, such as the concentration of various substances in the bioreactor, and then rely on a computer model to calculate the most probable state of the process.  The model information can be used to optimize the nutrient supply to the cultivated cells while the process is ongoing.

The process model and algorithms developed at TU Wien are now being used by Sandoz GmbH for its penicillin production process. 

To learn more about this work, see the researchers’ published findings in Chemical Engineering Science.