Development of suspension adapted Vero cell culture process technology for production of viral vaccines


Vero cells are considered as the most widely accepted continuous cell line by the regulatory authorities (such as WHO) for the manufacture of viral vaccines for human use. The growth of Vero cells is anchorage-dependent. Scale-up and manufacturing in adherent cultures are labor intensive and complicated. Adaptation of Vero cells to grow in suspension will simplify subcultivation and process scale-up significantly, and therefore reduce the production cost. Here we report on a successful adaptation of adherent Vero cells to grow in suspension in a serum-free and animal component-free medium (IHM03) developed in-house. The suspension adapted Vero cell cultures in IHM03 grew to similar or better maximum cell density as what was observed for the adherent Vero cells grown in commercial serum-free media and with a cell doubling time of 40–44 h. Much higher cell density (8 × 106 cells/mL) was achieved in a batch culture when three volume of the culture medium was replaced during the batch culture process. Both adherent and suspension Vero cells from various stages were tested for their authenticity using short tandem repeat analysis. Testing result indicates that all Vero cell samples had 100% concordance with the Vero DNA control sample, indicating the suspension cells maintained their genetic stability. Furthermore, suspension Vero cells at a passage number of 163 were assayed for tumorigenicity, and were not found to be tumorigenic. The viral productivity of suspension Vero cells was evaluated by using vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) as a model. The suspension cell culture showed a better productivity of VSV than the adherent Vero cell culture. In addition, the suspension culture could be infected at higher cell densities, thus improving the volumetric virus productivity. More than one log of increase in the VSV productivity was achieved in a 3L bioreactor perfusion culture infected at a cell density of 6.8 × 106 cells/mL.