Students get to try out advanced bioprocess technologies at the Testa Center

18 June 2019

Klara Lindbäck, Master Programme in Molecular Biotechnology: "The advantage of doing lab work here is that it can be done on a larger scale".

During the spring semester, groups of students from Uppsala University had the chance to utilise the Testa Center at GE Healthcare’s facility as part of their courses. The students spent their last lab day of the course Protein Biotechnology purifying proteins and gave the innovation centre a big tick of approval.

Since the opening of the Testa Center in the Uppsala suburb of Boländerna in August 2018, a number of course activities have been conducted in this 2,500 square metre building. Molecular Biotechnology students have been the main group to access the four bioprocess laboratories for the production of biopharmaceuticals (also known as biological medical products or biologics). Other students in computer science have worked with digital technologies such as smartglasses, which are better able to register and document advanced lab experiments.

Andreas Andersson.

Getting one’s training in an authentic production environment like this one is unique, according to Andreas Andersson, bioprocess and cell culture specialist at the Testa Center.

“Uppsala University is the first higher education institution to use the Testa Center and its modern equipment in the biotechnology process industry in Sweden. Giving students access to the latest infrastructure and the chance to experience doing lab work in an industrial milieu is a very valuable initiative.

One of the students doing labs at the Testa Centre is Per Lindbom, a student in his fourth year of the Master Programme in Molecular Biotechnology. The group he is part of cultured E. coli bacteria which were then moved to a 50-litre bioreactor for further growth. Proteins were then extracted and purified from the cultured cells.

What has it been like doing labs in the Testa Center?

Per Lindbom

“It’s been really great. You get a clearer picture of all the steps in the process, how it would be done in a real-life context. And then of course it’s lots of fun to do your work when the equipment is so sophisticated and modern,” says Per Lindbom.

His classmate Klara Lindbäck worked in a group responsible for the culture medium that kept the E. coli bacteria alive.   

“The advantage of doing this kind of work here is that it can be done on a larger scale and with equipment that you don’t have on a university campus. Here we’ve got access to the real instruments that are used in the industry. That means you get more of an understanding of how things work in practice,” says Klara Lindbäck. 

Innovative even from the international perspective

Darren Chin and Seungah Lee.

At the end of February, exchange students Seungah Lee from South Korea and Darren Chin from Singapore got their chance to do a week’s internship at the Testa Center. Both were studying the Plant Structure and Function course and the internship was an eye-opener for both them. Through interviews with key people at the Testa Center, they learnt how the organisation functions.

“In a way, the Center’s activities illustrate what Sweden is like as a country,” says Darren Chin, third year student in Biology. Singapore is a very small country in land space, but it has many multinational corporations and it’s very difficult for start-ups or small pharmaceutical companies to get their own, new ideas heard. So having something like the Testa Center in Singapore would be very refreshing and new. Because in Sweden of course, the Center can also act as a springboard for students.

The course Protein Biotechnology (10 credits) runs
over one study period. One of the teachers for this
course is Kateryna Kukil, doctoral student in Microbial

Considering the help that is offered by the Center’s staff and the contacts with researchers on site, more students ought to be lining up to taking courses that use the Test Center, according to Seungah Lee, fourth year student in Biology and Business Administration in South Korea.

“And more departments ought to be interested in locating some of their courses here, like courses in engineering, biotechnology and chemical engineering,” adds Darren Chin.