Cell Culture Media
Sep 16, 2022
| 4 min read

Searching for the Best Cell Culture Media for Advanced Therapies? “It’s All Relative” Says Our Expert

To help support your needs, we’re sharing insights from one of our experts on getting the most out of your cell culture media. Andres Castillo, Process Manager for Cell Culture Technologies, goes over what to consider and how your choice affects your results. He also walks through some of the trends you’ll see in media applications today.

This article is posted on our Science Snippets Blog

Today, innovation in cell culture media for gene therapy focuses mostly on reducing animal components, keeping formulations as effective and lean as possible, and building robust supply chains. But beyond choosing media that’s serum-free with lot-to-lot consistency, the best media for your gene therapy will depend on your specific application and goals.

What’s the first thing scientists should consider when choosing media for their cell and gene therapy?

“It’s really cell type-dependent,” says Castillo. “You need to select the right media for the cell type that you’re planning on growing and using.”

“An iPSC-derived therapy requires a cell culture media that can maintain its naïve state until you want to differentiate it, whereas autologous therapies need media that can support T cell growth. If you’re using HEK cells because they’re great for transfection and editing, you need a specific cell culture media to support that – the growth, serotypes, and transfection reagents.”

Gene therapy is a big bucket, so you need to make sure the cell culture media that you’re working with supports your cells and what you’re trying to do.

Andres Castillo, Market Entry Strategy Manager for Cell Culture Technologies

Are there any overarching differences or similarities to consider between advanced therapy modalities?

“Scale is the big differentiator. The protein segment is mature, whereas the scale of cell and gene therapy production is still working its way up. Lots of types of cell and gene therapies focus on smaller scales, especially when you’re working with a single patient or small patient population – in those cases, you might only use five liters of media total. Depending on how much or how little cell culture media you need, you’ll have more or less flexibility in your selection process.”

If you’re working with different donors but the same cell type, how do you adapt to each patient sample?

“In my experience, you use the selected cell culture media. But one thing we’ve seen in the T cell space specifically is that different subpopulations have potential to perform differently in the clinic. For example, more naïve subtypes have shown better performance in studies when it comes to persistence and side effects – so you might want a cell culture media that can preferentially cultivate the subtypes you’re interested in.”

“This area is still being investigated, but it’s a good point to consider that can give you an advantage in later cell and gene therapy applications.”

What are some of the common driving factors you see when choosing cell culture media?

"It’s all relative. Some scientists might prefer speed – and they’ll want to choose an off-the-shelf option because they don’t have time for a lengthy optimization process. For example, autologous therapies have such small batch sizes that reformulating the media might not be a big concern.”

Since this is such an innovative and rapidly changing field, are there any trends you’re seeing or ideas of how the selection process might soon change?

“Techniques and technologies are always changing. For example, scientists used to use serum, buy whole lots, and do testing on the FBS – but that’s not the recommended route anymore. We still add supplements to media, which is a handling step that costs time and money.”

In the future, we might see more off-the-shelf solutions like Nutri-T media. Since it doesn’t use serum, Nutri-T media removes that handling step, as well as its risks to sterility and consistency.

Andres Castillo, Market Entry Strategy Manager for Cell Culture Technologies

And what should scientists look for in a supplier?

“You need someone with the experience necessary to understand your needs and goals, and who can work with you to find the right solution for your cell and gene therapy.”

“For example, Sartorius has two acquisitions that have helped us address common customer challenges. We also have the expertise to choose media that will scale up from research to GMP manufacturing – which would otherwise be extremely costly to change.”

No matter which supplier you choose, you need one equipped to provide media in the capacity and formats you need – whether that’s a bag or a powder or so on. And they need that procedural experience to support you when you file for IND submission and move into clinical manufacturing.

Andres Castillo, Market Entry Strategy Manager for Cell Culture Technologies

    +      If you want to know more, you can also read our top tips on selecting the perfect partner for your cell line development.

Finally, is there anything else that people should be thinking about?

“The most important thing is always whether or not the media will work for your target application. Will it grow and expand the cells you want with high viability and consistency? Can you get it in the format that you need? Does it go beyond research use to support GMP? Does it have a drug master file? Is the supplier knowledgeable enough to answer your questions?”

“Before you select a cell culture media, it’s important to understand your needs and make sure you select a solution that can meet them.”

Andres Castillo

Andres Castillo is a Market Entry Strategy Manager for Cell Culture Technologies, within the Bioprocess Solutions division at Sartorius. He holds a BS and MBA from the University of Washington.

He is working on the execution of Sartorius' global cell culture technology strategy, developing application notes and webinars. Before joining Sartorius in 2021, Andres worked as research scientist in both GMP and non-GMP settings, specializing in cell therapy manufacturing and gene editing applications.

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