Efficient Wastewater cleaning for Insulin Production

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Courtesy of EnviroChemie GmbH

Insulin production using biotechnology is now a standard procedure, but it leads to a high level of contaminated wastewater due to tensides which are difficult to break down. A solution provided by EnviroChemie shows how production wastewater output with varying levels of contamination and toxicity can be cleaned efficiently. It combines aerobic and anaerobic steps as well as a low-temperature evaporator. The key point of the water treatment method designed by the engineers is the fact that the different wastewater sources are first identified and analysed each in turn, and then individually processed in an efficient manner.

Diabetes is a metabolic disease which leads to an excess level of blood sugar in humans. The trigger is the lack of or reduced effectiveness of the body's own insulin; a hormone which is produced in the pancreas. The main function of insulin is the regulation of the concentration of glucose in the blood. If this is not done effectively, then external insulin needs to be injected into the body.

While insulin was previously extracted expensively from the pancreas of pigs, nowadays it is synthesised. This recombinant (human) insulin accepted by the body. To create it, the insulin gene is introduced into the DNA of a bacteria cell. Typical hosts for production of the desired proteins are specially grown, non-pathogenic strains of escherichia coli bacteria. To release the protein produced out of the cell membrane without changing its primary structure, a non-ionic tenside is used, such as Triton X-100. This type of tenside is hormonally active and difficult to break down, so has to be removed again during the subsequent wastewater processing.

One of the European companies which produces recombinant insulin, among other things, is Bioton S.A. in Macierzysz (Poland). At the end of 2008, as part of an expansion of their production site, a new multi-step wastewater cleaning plant was commissioned with a high degree of automation. It combines maximum up-time with a high level of operational safety - one of the core requirements from the company relating to toxic wastewater which cannot be discharged into public water courses. In addition, the plant had to be as energy efficient as possible and operate sustainably.

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