Scientific Bioprocessing Inc. (SBI) has grown significantly since the company launched just a few years ago. Since then, SBI has built a well-balanced team of engineers, scientists, and business experts that is backed by a seasoned, deeply experienced executive leadership group.
SBI’s smart, strategic talent acquisition strategy has continued into late 2020 with the hiring of microbial cell culture expert Ian Sarad, the newest member of the SBI family. Sarad is an industrial microbiologist and fermentation specialist with strong expertise in optimization and upstream modification of cell culture parameters for increased yield, viability, and productivity.
SBI had been searching for new talent to augment an already strong team, and Sarad was the perfect fit.
Prior to joining SBI as a Senior Bioprocessing Application Scientist, Sarad began his career as a Research Assistant at Georgia State University, where he worked with a team on the development of volatile organic compounds produced via fermentation of Rhodococcus rhodochrous for treatment of fungal pathogens, specifically Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of White-Nose Syndrome in bats. Most recently, Sarad served as a Manufacturing Operations Associate at Dendreon and a Production Scientist at Immucor, Inc.
“It was an easy decision to join SBI, and an excellent opportunity to spread my wings. The technology that SBI is introducing into bioprocessing fits right in line with a lot of the questions I have been having surrounding issues and problems in the field,” stated Sarad. “Because I have a background in process optimization and the scale up of fermentation parameters, SBI’s sensors checked a lot of boxes for me and address the needs I see in the industry. These optical sensors will make things so much easier for people to do this work more effectively, efficiently, and at a lower cost.”
Since 2001, Sarad has tapped into bioprocessing professional networks and social circles; over that time, he has developed his microbial cell culture expertise while also hearing firsthand about the challenges facing the field and how these challenges have evolved across the last two decades. Sarad brings this unique blend of expertise and an intimate understanding of the needs and challenges faced by those working in the field to the SBI team.
“I speak the same language as the people doing this type of cellular work. We have the same issues. We’ve all had trouble with our dissolved oxygen in our bioreactor, or we’ve had an issue with glucose drops or we’ve dealt with contamination,” stated Sarad. “SBI is a great opportunity for me to work in a section of the industry that can help the people that I’ve known for so long,” he added.
“I enjoy the minutiae of cell culture. This is something you either suffer through or you love. This is a field that offers a very strange reward. For the most part, you suffer a series of crushing defeats followed by a minuscule victory. But when you win, it feels like you sank a 30 foot putt on the 18th green after shooting 110 for the day. However, every little adjustment or win you have upstream has exponentially compounded results downstream. It’s just really fascinating work,” stated Sarad.
Sarad deeply understands the esprit de corps of the bioprocessing tribe while also grasping the significant impact that SBI’s optical sensing technology will have on the field at large. He wisely acknowledges that bioprocessing work will never be easy, though SBI’s sensors can make the work easier. This is a subtle yet important distinction to make. Challenges remain but SBI’s technology offers a new opportunity to overcome them while also discovering new and better ways to advance the field.
Sarad sees the bioprocessing industry making great advances in synthetic biology, CRISPR, and developing tailor-made drugs. He believes that if the industry can regulate these processes, bioprocessing can more consistently produce the best proteins.
“Automation is becoming bigger and bigger, but the parts of the process I am most interested in are rarely automated. They occur on the micro-level. The fermentation sciences industry has changed very little since the 1970s, so this opportunity to work at SBI and help make a dramatic leap forward in process optimization and cell straining at the pericellular level is exciting,” he added.
“Take Pichia pastoris, for example, which is a yeast that is a very good producer of recombinant proteins. It is a very high cell density fermentation tool that relies heavily on dissolved oxygen for respiration. But when you put it in a flask to develop your proteins of interest, you’re totally blind to what’s happening unless you stop your cell culture, pull a sample, and run it offline with an external probe,” stated Sarad.
“Having the inline monitoring provided by SBI’s sensors allows bioprocessing engineers to adjust the fermentation parameters to get the best possible proteins. This is where SBI’s sensors will fit into the field in a really, really dramatic way,” he added. “The biggest factor is creating the right environmental growth conditions for cells. The environment needs to be right. You need to get the cells the right food. SBI’s sensors can help maintain this optimal environment and ultimately these sensors will make cell culture at the flask level easier, better, and just different.”
Sarad believes that SBI’s sensors can transform bioprocessing in this way once the company’s optical sensors are more widely adopted by the industry.
“Right now, cell culture artists are doing the work. Right now, it’s unlikely that a cell culture process done in Pittsburgh can be replicated by a lab in Atlanta. But if we can regulate the same pericellular conditions and the same pH and glucose levels across these labs, repeatability will increase, and cell culture success rates will go up as well,” stated Sarad.
“People talk about Big Pharma all the time, it’s sort of a ubiquitous phrase, but now there’s Little Pharma – there are two people in a small lab right now developing a monoclonal antibody-derived therapy that will change everything. They don’t have a ton of money. You don’t need a huge team now to do great science. SBI’s sensing technology helps empower great science in labs of all sizes,” he added.
“If you can truly optimize the upstream part of process development, the biotech industry will become unrecognizable and something totally new. If you’re able to produce more, faster, if you’re able to produce better yields or your synthetic biology becomes better at producing the proteins you want, speed to market will accelerate, experiment repeatability will increase, and costs will go down dramatically,” Sarad stated.
“SBI’s sensing technology and our new products in development will make it a tiny bit easier for startups to enter the industry, for example. And making these processes a little faster and more cost-effective can have enormous impacts on companies and patients. Joining SBI feels like the first time I’m really right there at the cutting edge of science. This is really a thrilling opportunity,” shared Sarad.