The origins of fermentation are lost in ancient history, perhaps even in prehistory. We
know that the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians both had knowledge of the techniques
used to convert starchy grains into alcohol. For most of history these processes, or similar
ones based on fruit juice conversion, have represented the most commonly accepted
interpretation of the word ‘fermentation’.
However, ‘fermentation’ has many different and distinct meanings for differing groups
of individuals. In the present context we intend it to mean the use of submerged liquid
culture of selected strains of microorganisms, plant or animal cells, for the manufacture
of some useful product or products, or to gain insights into the physiology of these cell
types. This is a relatively narrow defi nition, but would include the ‘traditional’ fermentations
described above. By contrast, the modern fermentation industry, which is largely a
product of the Twentieth century, is dominated by aerobic cultivations intended to make
a range of higher value products than simple ethanol.
In recent years there has been a tremendous expansion in the use of fermentation technology
by individuals with less training in the subject than previous exponents of these
techniques. This book is aimed at scientists and engineers relatively new to the subject
of fermentation technology, and is intended to be the text equivalent of the briefi ngs and
chats that mentors in this area would have with newcomers. It is meant to be a means of
passing on the experiences we have had in many years of fermentation to relative newcomers
to the subject, so that perhaps, you will be able to avoid some of the more obvious
pitfalls we fell into. It is specifi cally not intended as a reference text to the principles
underlying fermentation science and engineering, as such volumes already exist. Each
Practical Fermentation Technology Edited by Brian McNeil and Linda M. Harvey
© 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN: 978-0-470-01434-9
2 Practical Fermentation Technology
chapter in this book is accompanied by a short ‘further reading section’ or supporting
reference section, which generally contain a list of a few book chapters, or relevant
reviews supporting the material in the chapter.
The fermentation industry today is very much in a state of fl ux, with rapid changes in
location, product spectrum, and scale of processes occurring. To a large extent this has
been brought about by macroeconomic forces compelling the relocation of large scale
bioprocesses outside high labour cost regions, but also by the successful deciphering
of the human genome with its myriad of new therapeutic targets , and the signifi cant
advances in the construction of advanced fermentation expression systems for making
novel proteins and antibodies.
Thus, fermentation skills and knowledge are now essential to driving forward systematic
research into drug/receptor interactions, function of membrane proteins in health
and disease, and are powering an unparalleled expansion in our capability to combat
serious diseases in the human population, including cancers, degenerative illnesses such
as Alzheimer’s, and increasingly common complaints of developed societies such as
asthma. The new fermentation-derived medicines, including biopharmaceuticals, hold out
the prospect of improved specifi city of treatment, and decreased side effects. It is truly a
revolutionary period in clinical medicine as these new agents manufactured by fermentation
routes enter the market. The ‘new’ fermentation products, therapeutic proteins,
antibodies(simple and conjugated) are more complex and costly than previous products,
but, in essence, the need to focus upon the fermentation step is now clearer than ever.
Basically, the ‘quality’ of these products(the potency, effi cacy, stability and immunogenicity)
is determined by the upstream or fermentation stage, so the need for a clear
understanding of what happens in that stage, how it can best be monitored, controlled,
and carried out in a reproducible fashion, is greater than ever. It is in exactly these areas
that the many often highly capable individuals entering fermentation are unwittingly
defi cient in background.
The long heralded era of personalized medicine may well be imminent due to recent
advances in cultivation and replication of stem cells. This will make the need for scientists
and engineers who understand culture techniques even greater in coming years. Thus, the
demand for fermentation skills is likely to increase in the immediate future. Fermentation
has contributed much to the well-being and wealth of human populations over millennia;
it will continue to do so to an even greater extent in the future We hope this book will
help those coming recently to this fi eld to contribute more effectively to that process.
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