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Downstream processing – Product isolation, purification and characterization

Downstream processing – Product isolation, purification and characterization

Department of Biotechnology and Nanomedicine develops processes for fractionation and purification of products produced by fermentation, and from biomass. The department has experience and infrastructure for purification of small, bioactive molecules, as well as macromolecules such as proteins and virus.

Development of processes for isolation and purification of products is often a part of projects on fermentation, and in the recent years, to an increasing degree in projects targeting utilisation of marine biomass. In addition to process development, products are also produced for characterization and for supply of smaller test quantities for customers and collaboration partners.

Key competence:

  • Small, bioactive molecules, such as new compounds discovered by bioprospecting, are purified for structure elucidation and characterization of bioactivity. These molecules often have low solubility in water, and methods involving extraction with organic solvents are applied. Preparative LC-MS is used for purification, while other mass-spectrometric methods are applied for identification and structure elucidation. For characterization of bioactivity a wide range of high-throughput bioassays have been established, based on microorganisms and higher cells.
  • Proteins, in particular enzymes, are purified by methods such as membrane filtration, adsorption and chromatography, as well as high-pressure homogenization for intracellular products. Similar methods are used for smaller, water soluble molecules, such as peptides and amino acids. Large-scale purification processes are developed for fermentation products and protein from biomass. Proteins are also purified for characterization, for instance enzymes with new, or modified, activities developed by enzyme evolution and engineering.
  • Poly- and oligosaccharides: The department has experience and a large toolbox for characterization of polysaccharides, with particular experience in alginate and alginate oligomers. The department collaborates closely with NTNU (, which use NMR and advanced chromatographic methods for purification and characterization of poly- and oligosaccharides, as well as equipment for characterization of rheological properties.
  • Virus and nanoparticles are purified by field flow fractionation

For water-based separations, the department has equipment able to handle fermentation volumes up to 100-200 l, and corresponding quantities of biomass. The equipment includes centrifuges, cell homogenizer, membrane filtration plants, and chromatography equipment. Processes applying organic solvents can only be carried out in laboratory scale.

Senior Research Scientist