News Release

World's first method for continuous purification of valuable antibodies

Step forward in fight against cancer

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Austrian Research Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB)

Nikolaus Hammerschmidt, acib

image: acib researcher Nikolaus Hammerschmidt is shown working at a continuous reactor in lab scale. view more 

Credit: acib

Imagine a loved relative suffering from cancer - and you could not afford a treatment because the drugs are too expensive. The Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) developed a method with the power to reduce production costs of highly valued drugs significantly.

Without antibodies we would be at the mercy of pathogens or cancer cells. Therapeutic antibodies are used as passive vaccines, for cancer therapy or for controlling autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. According to "" the global market for antibody drugs was worth nearly 70 billion USD in 2014 and should rise to 122 billion USD until 2019.

Two thirds of those molecules are produced biotechnologically using Chinese hamster ovary cells (CHO). Actually the major cost factor for industry is purification using "protein A" affinity chromatography where tens of thousands of liters of culture volume have to be processed annually. About 80 % of the production costs fall upon purification.

Here this new purification method comes into play. Researchers from the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) developed the world's first downstream processing method for recombinant antibodies from clarified CHO cultures. From a technical view, the purification method combines a Calcium-Phosphate flocculation with a subsequent cold ethanol precipitation in a tubular reactor realized as a double-pipe heat exchanger that is operated in counter-current flow.

A feasibility study exemplified by the purification of immune globulin G (IgG) shows that the continuous method can compete with "protein A" affinity chromatography in terms of yield and outperforms chromatography according to the speed of operation. A further advantage is that the operation parameters can be easily transferred from the actually used batch to the continuous approach. In combination with a prior concentration step the new method is perfect for purification of low titer supernatants. "Our method shows great potential as a new platform technology for the pharmaceutical industry", says Prof. Alois Jungbauer, who is in negotiations with several international companies about building pilot plants.


The acib has extensive experience in CHO technologies, has recently sequenced the genome of the Chinese hamster and shares knowledge within This year the research center started an international academic education initiative around biotechnological use of CHO cells with partners from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland und UK.

The purification method was published in the Biotechnology Journal:

Additionally a comment emphasizes the relevance of the project:

About acib

The Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) is an international Research Centre for Industrial Biotechnology with locations in Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, Tulln (A), Hamburg, Bielefeld (D), Pavia (I) and Barcelona (E). Using the concepts of nature, acib-scientists replace traditional industrial methods with new, more economic and ecological technologies.

Actually, acib is an international network of 120+ international universities and industry partners, including BASF, DSM, Sandoz, Boehringer Ingelheim, Jungbunzlauer, voestalpine, 3M or Clariant. Owners are the Universities of Innsbruck and Graz, Graz University of Technology, the University of Natural Resources, Vienna and Joanneum Research.

At acib 200+ scientific employees with up to 30+ years of experience in industrial biotechnology work in more than 50 research projects. Public funding (53% of the budget) comes from the Research Promotion Agency of the Republic of Austria (FFG), the country Tyrol, the Styrian Business Promotion Agency (SFG) and the Technology Agency of the City of Vienna (ZIT). The EU funds additional projects such as CHEM21.

The competence center acib is sponsored within COMET (Austrian Competence Centres for Excellent Technologies) by the BMVIT, BMWFW and the provinces of Styria, Tyrol, Lower Austria and Vienna. The COMET program is handled by the FFG.

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