Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

Animal Cell Biotechnology

Our aim is to develop production processes for biopharmaceuticals and other bioproducts based on a proper understanding of the biology of the cell and of its interactions with the bioreactor environment. We focus on the production of pharmaceutical proteins and vaccines by CHO cells and insect cells and the production of secondary metabolites and bioproducts by sponges.


Develop optimal and scalable processes for the production of biopharmaceuticals like proteins, vaccines and sponge-derived products.


Pharmaceutical proteins

For optimal efficacy and minimal side effects correct posttranslational modifications of these proteins is very important. Therefore production is done in mammalian cells, where the Chinese Hamster Ovary cell currently is the most used cell line in industry. Using tools  like metabolic flux analysis, gene expression analysis, flow cytometry and modelling we try to get a better understanding of the biology of the CHO cell in relation to reactor conditions and translate this into faster process development of scalable and robust (i.e deliver always the same product quality and productivity at production scale) processes.

Vaccines (baculovirus insect cell expression system)

With the emergence of new diseases and the spread of existing diseases there is an increasing need for vaccines. The baculovirus insect cell expression system is being increasingly used for the production of human and veterinary vaccines as well as for the production of gene therapy products. Production of viral vaccines usually are two step processes where first the cells are grown, which are next infected with virus to produce new virus particles. We aim to quantitatively understand these infection processes as a basis for process development. 

Sponge-derived pharmaceuticals als bioproducts

Marine sponges are source of chemicals that have potential to treat a range of human diseases. Their microscopic skeletons are inspiration to develop products that may be used as biomaterials, such as bone and dental implants. Research focuses on development of sustainable and scalable production processes for sponge-derived biopharmaceuticals and bioproducts. We aim to understand biology, nutritional and growth requirements of target species in vitro and apply that knowledge to optimize culture conditions and develop cell lines for production of bioactive chemicals. Ultimately, this should lead to the design of production processes in scalable bioreactors. Shirley Pomponi heads this topic.