There is renewed interest in the possibility of using precipitation for initial capture of high-value therapeutic proteins as part of an integrated continuous downstream process. Precipitation is greatly facilitated by the high product titers now achieved in most cell culture processes, in sharp contrast to chromatographic processes whose performance is reduced at high titers. The current study used a combination of reversible cross-linking (zinc chloride, ZnCl2) and volume exclusion (polyethylene glycol) agents to precipitate a monoclonal antibody product directly from harvested cell culture fluid using a continuous tubular precipitation reactor. The precipitates were then dewatered and continuously washed using tangential flow filtration, with a countercurrent-staged configuration used to reduce the amount of wash buffer required and increase host cell protein removal. Long-term operation was achieved by operating the membrane modules below the critical filtrate flux to avoid fouling. Experimental results demonstrate the feasibility of this fully continuous integrated precipitation process at bench scale, with design calculations used to explore the key factors affecting the performance of this system for initial antibody capture.
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