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Considerations when Selecting a Bioreactor

A guide to selecting the right bioreactor for your pharmaceutical lab

Tasmiha Khan

Tasmiha Khan is an independent writer with work appearing in The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME, and National Geographic, among others. Currently, Khan covers...

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Ultimately, achieving the experimental objectives in a shorter timeframe and lowering costs are on the minds of lab managers. That’s why choosing the most optimal bioreactor is a crucial decision that can directly impact one’s lab efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness in the fruitful world of pharmaceutical research. Here are a few crucial factors pharmaceutical labs need to consider when searching for the right bioreactor. Taking these factors into account will ensure a smoother experience for your lab. 

Influence of lab throughput

We live in a world with an exceptionally competitive bioprocessing industry. Lab throughput is critical in choosing the correct bioreactor for your pharmaceutical lab. Labs are actively working to reduce the time to market (the length of time it takes to bring a product from general conception to full market availability), along with the cost of goods sold. High-throughput bioreactors allow for labs to better functionalize their workflows, allowing for a lot more experiments to be performed in a much shorter time overall whereas low-throughput bioreactors can be used on a smaller scale with more focus. 

Which bioreactors help best with scaling up reactions?

For successful manufacturing, bioprocesses must be scaled up effectively. The choice of bioreactor has a pretty large effect on overall scaling success. Dan Kopec, business area manager for bioreactor technologies at Sartorius, explains that “proper upscaling has a huge impact on future success [in terms of]efficiencies and resources,” and it is important to select the appropriate bioreactors. “Aspects including bioreactor format, geometric similarity, and consistent sensor technologies across scales should be considered,” he adds. Some bioreactor manufacturers offer solutions that enable seamless technology transfer from smaller- to larger-scale bioreactors.These bioreactors range in size from 250 mL to 2000 L and are designed for one-time use. Additionally, analytical scaling software simplifies predictive scale-up across supported bioreactors. 

Sizing considerations

When measuring the size of a bioreactor, the main goal to be taken into account is to produce the necessary material for further processing while minimizing bench space and media requirements. “In general, for the laboratory, the reactor should be as small as possible while still making the material needed for further processing,” says Kopec. Scalability of advanced sensor technologies and design characteristics like impeller type, gassing, and mixing characteristics should also be considered.

Impact of organism on bioreactor choice

When it comes to choosing an organism, your choice will significantly influence bioreactor selection. Factors such as impeller type, sparger type, baffles, and whether the reactor is jacketed or not are mostly determined by process objectives and the cell type. 

Sterilization process

The sterilization procedure affects the decision between single-use and multiple-use bioreactors as well as the material (stainless steel, glass, or plastic). Cleaning and sterilizing stainless and glass bioreactors can require more lab space, power, labor, and chemicals. In contrast, single-use bioreactors are more environmentally friendly for smaller-scale applications because they are pre-sterilized and do not need specialized facilities.

Process monitoring and control

The type of process and the desired outcomes determine the degree of process monitoring and control required for a bioreactor. To improve process efficiency, cut costs, and manage risk, critical process parameters and critical quality attributes  should be tracked and controlled. The use of sophisticated sensor technologies for real-time monitoring and control, such as capacitance sensors and Raman spectroscopy, is growing within the sector. 


Single-use bioreactors have had a great emergence, branded as a more sustainable option for smaller-scale applications. They reduce energy, water, and space consumption in comparison to stainless steel systems, which require heavily cleaned and sterilized facilities. 

Post-sale support

Pharmaceutical labs should take post-sale support provided by the equipment supplier into serious consideration. Suppliers should serve as cooperative partners in the lab’s transition to automation and digitization, going beyond the transaction. As laboratories work to streamline processes and maintain their position at the forefront of innovation, supplier knowledge and direction are crucial. To ensure that laboratories can fully capitalize on their investments in bioreactors, suppliers should offer technical support, training, and updates. The secret to realizing the full potential of bioreactor technology may lie in a solid partnership with the ideal supplier.

To choose the best bioreactor for a pharmaceutical lab, the lab manager must make several complex decisions that will have a large impact on research outcomes and financial viability. To make decisions that are in line with their unique research goals and constraints, pharmaceutical labs should take into account variables like throughput, scalability, organism type, sterilization process, monitoring and control, sustainability, and post-sales support. Collaboration with seasoned vendors can streamline this procedure and guarantee that labs have the tools necessary to spur innovation and development in the biopharmaceutical industry.