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Co-current Filtrate Flow in TFF Perfusion Processes: Decoupling Transmembrane Pressure from Crossflow to Improve Product Sieving

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Hollow fiber-based membrane filtration has emerged as the dominant technology for cell retention in perfusion processes yet significant challenges in alleviating filter fouling remain unsolved. In this work, the benefits of co-current filtrate flow applied to a tangential flow filtration (TFF) module to reduce or even completely remove Starling recirculation caused by the axial pressure drop within the module was studied by pressure characterization experiments and perfusion cell culture runs. Additionally, a novel concept to achieve alternating Starling flow within unidirectional TFF was investigated. Pressure profiles demonstrated that precise flow control can be achieved with both lab-scale and manufacturing scale filters. TFF systems with co-current flow showed up to 40% higher product sieving compared to standard TFF. The decoupling of transmembrane pressure from crossflow velocity and filter characteristics in co-current TFF alleviates common challenges for hollow-fiber based systems such as limited crossflow rates and relatively short filter module lengths, both of which are currently used to avoid extensive pressure drop along the filtration module. Therefore, co-current filtrate flow in unidirectional TFF systems represents an interesting and scalable alternative to standard TFF or alternating TFF operation with additional possibilities to control Starling recirculation flow.

Author Dr. Patrick Romann
Company Levitronix GmbH