Dr.-Ing. Felipe Tapia
Max Planck Institute for Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems
My main research interest is the development and characterization of continuous bioreactors for production of viruses that are relevant for vaccine and gene therapy applications.
Today most of the viruses that are used in vaccines
and gene therapies are produced with batch technologies. Continuous systems are known to be more efficient
than batch, but previous studies have shown that virus replication in
continuous mode is limited by the accumulation of defective interfering
particles (DIPs). Also, continuous virus production has the risk of unwanted
viral antigenic mutations that can arise after prolonged cultivation times.
To solve these challenges, I have first been working on the production of a genetically stable virus such as Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) in a bioreactor system known as cascades of stirred tank bioreactors. We demonstrated that MVA production in continuous cascades is possible without the detrimental effect of DIPs, and we developed a simplified cascade cultivation system in semi-continuous mode using shake flasks.
However, my biggest contribution so far has been the design and construction of a novel process for influenza whole-virus production that is based on a plug-flow tubular bioreactor system. This innovation is the only bioreactor technology so far that enables efficient continuous production of viruses without the risk of genetic mutations and without the negative effect of DIPs. We demonstrated this in 2019 in an open access publication where we managed to operate the tubular bioreactor for several weeks with high titers of influenza virus.
Since 2019 I have co-directed a Spinoff of the Max Planck Society in the city of Magdeburg, Germany, where our goal is to bring these continuous technologies to real applications in vaccine production and gene therapy.
Continuous bioreactors not only make it possible to miniaturize bioreactors and simplify upstream scale-up operations, but also have an impact on the entire production chain by requiring downstream and fill and finish equipment of smaller size and surface area.
Hence, I believe that the design and implementation of continuous bioreactors are the first stage towards the construction of miniaturized factories for vaccines and gene therapies, increasing access to these therapies in, for example, countries without local vaccine manufacturing capacity. Also, miniaturized factories based on continuous bioreactors will allow the cost efficient development of gene therapies, not only for rare diseases with a few hundred patients globally, but also for common diseases where global demand is significantly higher and current batch technologies will not be enough to meet that demand.
- Born in Puerto Montt, Chile.
- Doktor-Ingenieur (Dr.-Ing). Max Planck Institute for the Dynamics of Complex Technical Systems and Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg, 2019.
M.Sc (w. Hons) in Advanced Materials and Processes, Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, 2012. Focus in tissue engineering, biomaterials.
Diploma in Chemical Engineering, Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, Valparaíso, Chile, 2010. Focus in process engineering.
Publications: All publications are available in Google Scholar