Evolution of the Optimal Viral Vaccine Production Media

In their article, “Considerations in Scale-Up of Viral Vaccine Production,” William G. Whitford and Alain Fairbank discuss the ongoing process of the vaccine industry’s move “from production in platforms based on whole animals and primary tissues (e.g. embryonated chicken eggs) to cultured-cell-based production.” (Bioprocess International. 9(8)s. September 2011.) Their article describes the transition of this technology, which was developed over 50 years ago and has evolved into today’s modern vaccine production facilities. One very important aspect of this transition is the optimization of the virus vaccine production media. Whatever the chosen production process platform may be, it is absolutely crucial that the selected cell culture media be optimized not only for the manufacturing platform (e.g. microcarriers/bioreactors, stacked array flasks), but for, according to Whitford and Fairbank, “a number of safety, process, economic and regulatory reasons.” All these considerations have resulted in the development of platforms that utilize serum free and animal-derived-component free vaccine production media.

Developing such a media remains a challenge for vaccine production processes because of the numerous component requirements to achieve optimal viral yield. As discussed in the blog, “The Use of Serum Albumin to Increase Viral Yield during Vaccine Production,” the virus production process consists of a cell growth phase and a virus production phase. The risks of using serum and animal components to optimize the performance in each phase are listed, which demonstrates the overall need of the vaccine industry to switch to a much safer serum-free and animal-free vaccine production media

Whitford and Fairbank’s article provides a table which lists commercially available cell culture media and supplements used in viral vaccine production. Furthermore, an article by Luke Dimasi, “Meeting Increased Demands on Cell Based Processes By Using Defined Media Supplements” (Bioprocess International. 9(8). September 2011) presents data demonstrating the efficient use of not only animal-free recombinant human albumin, but also animal-free recombinant human transferrin in serum free viral vaccine production media. In addition, their data also shows the ability of these media supplements to approach performance achieved with FBS supplemented media.

Media supplements such as animal free and recombinant human albumin and transferrin, once too costly or unavailable, are now being utilized in biopharmaceutical manufacturing. The goal of achieving an optimal viral yield while using a serum-free and animal-derived-component free virus vaccine production media formulation is most certainly attainable with economically feasible technologies that are now readily available.

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