The Biomanufacturing Technology Group focuses on developing key innovations for biopharmaceutical manufacturing particularly in the areas of continuous biomanufacturing and data-driven future of biomanufacturing, using microfluidics and sensor technology. We are fascinated by the fluidic phenomena at the microscale that can be used for mixing, cell sorting and trapping. We have recently patented a cell retention filter for continuous biomanufacturing, the only one in the world that can work at high densities and is membrane-free. This technology is potentially disruptive because it overcomes the problem of biofouling and clogging in membrane-based filters especially for high density cultures used in biomanufacturing. This innovation is derived from a new scientific discovery in our group to which we have also developed a theoretical model to explain our scientific experimental observations with predictive accuracy.
We have also developed tube-free microfluidic switchboards to replace conventional valves and tubing. By combining plastic-PDMS based microfluidics with programmable digital pneumatics, we can achieve precise switching and control over fluidic flows so that different microfluidic components can be combined into a single integrated platform and activated in rapid succession. This allows us to develop complex microfluidic devices with as many functions as lab scale equipment: this is important for performing high throughput, multi- analytical experiments with high precision and sensitivity using minimal sample volumes. Our parallel expertise in biosensors also drives us to integrate novel sensors in these devices, further enhancing their functionality by providing real-time monitoring data that can feedback to the digital pneumatics for automated close loop control.
With these capabilities, we are capable of developing perfusion microbioreactors with precise control and monitoring of important physicochemical parameters in the milliliter scale that can mimic upstream continuous manufacturing. The milliliter scale is critical in bridging the microfluidics to lab scale analytical tools so that additional analysis may be performed on the same sample, enabling side-by-side comparison with large industrial bioreactors can be performed using the same analytical tools. Microbioreactors are important as a rapid, high throughput and cost effective platform that can accelerate upstream process development in continuous biomanufacturing.
In the long term, we are ultimately interested in developing a microfluidic toolbox that can offer dual opportunities to develop technologies relevant to the biomanufacturing industry as well as biological experiments in the research space. We hope to replace conventional shake flasks and well plates, which do not provide control over growth conditions, and tedious sampling protocols with these microfluidic devices so that future high throughput biological experiments can be performed in fully controlled conditions with high density, real-time data fulfilling the dream of having industrial level of functionality at the lab scale for better future biology experiments.