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Open Access Research

Versatile modeling and optimization of fed batch processes for the production of secreted heterologous proteins with Pichia pastoris

Michael Maurer1, Manfred Kühleitner2, Brigitte Gasser1 and Diethard Mattanovich13*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, Department of Biotechnology, Institute of Applied Microbiology, Vienna, Austria

2 University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, Department of Integrative Biology, Institute of Mathematics, Vienna, Austria

3 School of Bioengineering, University of Applied Sciences FH-Campus Vienna, Austria

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Microbial Cell Factories 2006, 5:37  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-5-37

Published: 11 December 2006



Secretion of heterologous proteins depends both on biomass concentration and on the specific product secretion rate, which in turn is not constant at varying specific growth rates. As fed batch processes usually do not maintain a steady state throughout the feed phase, it is not trivial to model and optimize such a process by mathematical means.


We have developed a model for product accumulation in fed batch based on iterative calculation in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and used the Solver software to optimize the time course of the media feed in order to maximize the volumetric productivity. The optimum feed phase consisted of an exponential feed at maximum specific growth rate, followed by a phase with linearly increasing feed rate and consequently steadily decreasing specific growth rate. The latter phase could be modeled also by exact mathematical treatment by the calculus of variations, yielding the explicit shape of the growth function, however, with certain indeterminate parameters. To evaluate the latter, one needs a numerical optimum search algorithm. The explicit shape of the growth function provides additional evidence that the Excel model results in correct data. Experimental evaluation in two independent fed batch cultures resulted in a good correlation to the optimized model data, and a 2.2 fold improvement of the volumetric productivity.


The advantages of the procedure we describe here are the ease of use and the flexibility, applying software familiar to every scientist and engineer, and rapid calculation which makes predictions extremely easy, so that many options can be tested in silico quickly. Additional options like further biological and technological constraints or different functions for specific productivity and biomass yield can easily be integrated.