A Lab-Scale Fermentation Course with an Emphasis on Recombinant Protein Production


  • Charles Rutter North Carolina State University
  • Jennifer Pancorbo




Fermentation is responsible for the production of myriad products across a variety of industrial sectors. In particular, the biomanufacturing industry requires a labor force proficient in fermentation and its associated technologies to drive the production of recombinant protein therapeutics. This paper describes the development of a course that introduces students to fermentation technologies for protein production at the laboratory scale. The course aims to familiarize students with the theory underlying the operation of bioreactors, the growth of microorganisms, and the expression and characterization of recombinant proteins. The eight-week course consists of a weekly lecture covering topics including properties of proteins, expression systems, microbial growth, gas-liquid mass transfer, sterilization, and process controls. In addition to lectures, students participate in weekly lab sessions involving the evaluation of growth kinetics, protein production, expression system optimization, and oxygenation and substrate feeding strategies. Student learning is assessed through bi-weekly quizzes and team lab reports, as well as a final group presentation on a technology relevant to the production of recombinant therapeutic proteins. Analysis of student responses on pre- and post-course surveys informed efficacy of course delivery. Overall, student responses on pre- and post-course surveys indicate achievement of learning objectives.

Author Biographies

Charles Rutter, North Carolina State University

Dr. Charles Rutter is a Senior Scientist at BTEC. His focus is in the development and delivery of courses related to upstream manufacturing for graduate and undergraduate students as well as industry professionals. He earned his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a focus on metabolic engineering of E. coli to broaden substrate utilization. He currently serves on the Education and Outreach Committee for the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Jennifer Pancorbo

Dr. Jennifer Pancorbo is Director of Industry Programs and Research at BTEC, where she builds the center’s relationship with the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries through various programs. Dr. Pancorbo is responsible for courses in pharmaceutical production and supports related professional development courses. She earned her PhD in chemical and biochemical engineering from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she focused on the design and development of targeted drug delivery.