Many pharmaceutical products such as insulin are human proteins that are produced by genetically-modified animal cells in bioreactors.

The bioreactor contains a growth medium with nutrients such as glucose that the cells need to produce the pharmaceutical protein. Unfortunately, there are almost no continuous sensors available for monitoring the concentration of glucose or of that of other nutrients in the growth medium during protein production, and this lack of continuous chemical sensors is increasing the cost of pharmaceutical protein production.

In order to meet the market need for continuous bioreactor sensors, Professor Jules Magda (Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Utah) is collaborating with Dr. Prashant Tathireddy (PhD in Chemical Engineering, University of Utah). Magda is an expert on the synthesis of magnetic smart polymer hydrogels that autonomously swell or shrink in response to changes in the glucose concentration or in response to changes in the concentration of other nutrients in bioreactor growth media. Tathireddy is an expert in the transduction of these smart hydrogel swelling changes into wireless electrical signals as needed for process control of bioreactors. Their collaboration has led to the formation of the promising university spin-out Applied Biosensors Ltd.

Their work is featured in this year’s annual report from the University of Utah’s Technology & Venture Commercialization.

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