Skip to main content

Development and commercialisation of a sustainable, energy efficient and scalable bioprocessing technology to enable sustainable cell-based manufacturing

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - HuBMBLES (Development and commercialisation of a sustainable, energy efficient and scalable bioprocessing technology to enable sustainable cell-based manufacturing)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2018-12-31

The HuMBLES Phase 1 project explores the techno-economic feasibility of using multiplexed microfluidic arrays to for harvesting of microbial cell cultures to enable sustainable bioproduction. Biological cells can produce an enormous range of products such as medicine, food, cosmetics, pigments, nutritional supplements, plastics and fuel. However, the industries active with this sustainable method of production are burdened by stagnant, inefficient technology for the harvesting of cells. Microfluidics technologies enable low-energy, high efficiency separations to occur at the lab scale. uFraction8, the leader of the HuMBLES project, was founded by the world leader in scalable microfluidics. Leveraging the ability to scale microfluidics throughput out of the lab and into industry promises to be the key to unlocking a sustainable bioeconomy revolution.
The overall objective of this development project is to create a commercially ready HuMBLES product, with validated results through field trials. Dissemination of the H2020 project progress through client meetings and attendance at downstream processing and bio-processing related seminars/conferences will facilitate early market adopters for market entry of this disruptive solution to the bio-producers. This will enable us to achieve our overall commercial objective to become the leading global developer and supplier of liquid - particle processing equipment to sustain industries of the future.
The work completed in the Phase 1 Feasibility study has developed uFraction8‘s commercial vision for the HuMBLES and preparation for market launch.

The Phase 1 grant has enabled us to complete an in-depth market study, on completion of which, having reviewed and analysed the data collected, we conclude that there is a viable market opportunity for HuMBLES initially in downstream processing of bioreactor products followed by classification and dewatering for waste treatment applications. We will continue to watch the progress of the market for bioprocessing for therapeutic protein development as it matures for HuMBLES. From our contact with Algaceuticals, Industrial Phycology, MiAlgae, Xanthella, Bio-Rad Pharma, SABANA, and SUEZ; we have already begun developing what is likely to become our initial route to market.

Whilst the aim is for the HuMBLES to be sold to the users of bioseparation systems, we first need to convince them of the technology so we will be required to build a number of prototypes in partnership with the subcontract bespoke sub systems manufacturers this during the phase 2 project. We have successfully mapped out the supply chain for hardware and testing providers to enable us to offer HuMBLES for in house testing. We have also confirmed the interest of several end users who are keen to commence end user trials.

In planning the further development programme for HuMBLES, we gained a clear understanding of the work required to develop to TRL9. We have built a work plan that is manageable, affordable and realistic to achieve. During the preparation of the Phase 2 proposal, it is envisaged that further refinements will be made to the structure and cost, to deliver a robust plan for scale-up and commercialisation.

The wider market is large enough to support more than one competing solution, therefore we consider that the threat of competing viable alternatives also reaching the market does not constitute a major barrier to successful commercialisation by uFraction8 (though this is an area that must be monitored to assure the sustainability of the business). As a result of this Phase 1 project, we have been able to review our business strategy, and to construct a robust business plan, with realistic and achievable financial forecasts. uFraction8 will therefore proceed with our plans to reach market as soon as possible, in order to capitalise on timing of key market drivers, and establish HuMBLES as the technology of choice for the Bioseparation market, and to bring our business plan to fruition.
"The state of the art technologies used in current set ups are energy inefficient, labour intensive and expensive to install and have also been shown to harm product yields through shear forces disrupting cell membranes (See table 1.1). These systems, based on filters and centrifuges are used in conjunction with each other in a multi-stage process. Rising pressure for sustainable solutions is mounting, so pushing them out should be welcome with an acknowledged need for change. Current bioproducers are forced to multiply production plans in order to scale up production due to physical limitations of scaling up centrifuges. In a meeting with Scottish Bioenergy's Managing Director, David Van Alstyne, they found they had to ""design the rest of their processes to match the capacity of available centrifuges, which was a frustrating and painful experience"". In comparison with existing technologies such as centrifuges, HuMBLES offers customers: cost savings, rapid scalability, sustainability targets, new product possibilities, increased productivity and capacity matching."