Russian Scientists Visit MSU to Receive Training in Fermentation Pilot-Plant Methods

August 13, 2012

Five Russian scientists spent three weeks in July at Michigan State University and the Michigan Biotechnology Institute (MBI) learning about fermentation pilot-plant operations.

The scientists, from the Production Association Sibbiopharm Ltd., based in Berdsk, the Russian Federation, were accompanied by two translators.

Sibbiopharm is currently one of the leaders of bioindustry in Russia, with more than 45 years of experience in manufacturing enzymes and biotech products for the food and agricultural industries, and for environmental protection applications.

The goal of the MSU and MBI program, which ran through July 26, was to train Sibbiopharm staff to use new equipment that was provided to their company during a Production Upgrade Project supported by a 2006-2010 grant from the BioIndustry Initiative (BII) Program of the U.S. Department of State.

The training included a week of focused studies in an MSU biochemical engineering laboratory, followed by two weeks of learning about pilot-plant operations at MBI, a company that partners with MSU, other research institutions, and end-user companies to bridge the gap between early innovations and commercial applications. MBI has 25 years of experience in fermentation technologies and process scale-up.

“The MSU component of the training program focused on fermentation optimization and scale-up methods. A combination of lectures, laboratory experiments, and computer-based exercises were tailored to the backgrounds of the students,” according to R. Mark Worden, MSU AgBioResearch scientist and professor in MSU’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.

“The program at MBI was focused on the practical aspects of designing, operating and maintaining a modern fermentation pilot plant,” says David Senyk, vice president of engineering at MBI. “Demonstration of the scale-down and scale-up of an existing Sibbiopharm process was used as the basis for the training.”

The training program was organized by CRDF Global—an implementing partner of the U.S. Department of State and independent nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, training, and services. The organization is based in Arlington, Virginia, with offices in Moscow, Russia; Kyiv, Ukraine; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Amman, Jordan.

“This training simulated, as closely as possible, the production conditions that exist at the Russian company,” says JimWolfram, an independent consultant supporting the CRDF implementation of the BII Program. “A permit was secured to allow their non-pathogenic organism to be transported to the United States. Therefore, the conditions of the fermentations and assays were familiar to the trainees.

“During the training, a new process control variable was tested. The result yielded a 50 percent gain in production of the product per unit volume. A positive increase like this, if reproducible at the Russian plant, could be financially significant in their sustainability,” Wolfram says.