The Market for Cell Culture Media Continues Expansion

The cell culture media market has been growing and it appears that the trend will continue. The expanding cell culture market was the topic of a recent article in Genetic Engineering News titled “Cell Culture Media Market Maturing.” According to a 2010 research report quoted in the article, “sales of cell culture media, sera and reagents will grow from $2.3 billion in 2009 to an estimated $3.9 billion by 2015.” This is an annual growth of more than nine percent per year and indicates a healthy market environment.

This predicted increase in sales along with the rise of biotechnology in Asia has made cell culture media companies appealing acquisition targets for several large healthcare companies. The list includes Corning Life Sciences that acquired Mediatech in December last year, Merck KgaA who acquired Millipore, and GE Healthcare who acquired PAA.

While sales of “off the shelf” media continue to grow, sales of media ingredients have been growing as well and many feel that creating media in-house, or custom formulation, still provides the best economics desired for manufacturing. Most large biotechnology companies purchase some of their media “off the shelf” for smaller volume projects, but prefer to manufacture their media in-house at larger manufacturing volumes. The advantage of buying manufactured media from a cell culture media company is that you get an immediate solution and do not need to support in-house media formulation. The drawback to purchasing complete media from a media provider is that it can be more expensive and often the media company keeps some of the media recipe secret and proprietary. This makes it difficult to make small adjustments or further optimize the media since it is not clear what is incorporated in the ingredients. In addition as media purity and country of origin for raw materials undergoes increased scrutiny, companies manufacturing the final product and the cell culture media companies must pay particular attention to selecting only the highest quality raw materials as ingredients. In a recent Cell Culture Dish blog titled “ Quality vs. Cost – Ways to Achieve Both” we discussed the risks associated with raw material impurities and how this can cause contaminations and manufacturing shut downs.

In the Genetic Engineering News article Harry Brack, GE Healthcare stated “Media development has reached a plateau of sorts with respect to the most significant trend of the 2000s: a shift from serum and animal component-containing media to serum-free and chemically defined media. We’ve come to the end of that particular story.” While many companies who have moved away from using animal products in their antibody manufacturing may share this sentiment, some still include animal components. And while many believe that CHO cell culture media needs only “tweaks,” several cell lines still need significant improvements to achieve a productive, animal component free media. Perhaps the most significant opportunities exist in areas where animal products are commonly used – vaccine manufacturing and stem cell therapies.

The article discusses animal component free ingredient specialist InVitria who received an NIH Grant to develop chemically defined, animal derived component free (ADCF) media for vaccine manufacturing. InVitria’s CEO Scott Deeter explained “ADCF vaccine production media exists, but traditionally there has been a trade-off between performance of undefined media compared to the consistency of well-defined media.” InVitria is using two of its products, Optiferrin (recombinant transferrin) and Cellastim (recombinant albumin) to solve this problem by maintaining performance while providing the safety and consistency of defined, ADCF media.

In addition to vaccine production media, stem cell therapies are another area where there is a significant need to provide animal component free media. Several cell culture media companies who provide varying levels of defined, serum free or animal component free media solutions for stem cells have not overlooked this need. These companies include Millipore, Stemgent, Life Technologies, Aruna Biomedical, Thermo Scientific, and Vitro Diagnostics. In addition to complete media suppliers, InVitria presented data demonstrating a significant improvement in performance for stem cell culture media containing their cell culture supplements Optiferrin and Cellastim.

I believe that there are many areas that still need considerable cell culture media improvement and that breakthroughs in media are still possible. As a person who regularly receives vaccinations and has them administered to my child, to me the most exciting advancements involve ways to make media safer and eliminate possible contaminants. Certainly eliminating any animal derived components from the media is a clear step towards this goal.

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