Cell culture pilot plant research facility

The NRC’s Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre’s advanced bioprocessing services and equipment ensure that quality is built into your biologics and vaccines. The cell culture pilot plant offers process development and scale-up for the production of biologics and vaccines using CHO, HEK293 and other animal cell expression systems.

Our capabilities

Our team of cell biologists, purification experts and biochemical engineers have extensive experience in process optimization and scale-up, cell culture in bioreactors, medium development, viral infection processes, recovery, purification, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and cell-based assays. Our medium development specialists enable you to optimize culture media and develop feeding strategies to improve product yield.

We excel at working with monitoring tools to develop control strategies. Our tailored analytical assays ensure a smooth transition from bench-scale process optimization all the way up to production at the 500 L scale.

Our services include:

  • development and scale-up of batch, fed-batch or perfusion cell culture processes up to 500 L scale for biologics production
  • scale-up of viral production and purification processes
  • scale-up of transient transfection processes
  • development of cell culture media and feeding strategies for process optimization
  • in-process assay development
  • customized, hands-on training on bioreactor operation up to 500 L scale

Ideal facility for emerging technologies

The cell culture pilot plant has been extensively used by biotechnology companies for pilot-scale production and purification of recombinant proteins, viral vectors and vaccines. We facilitate the transfer of optimized cGMP-compatible bioprocesses to the contract manufacturing organization (CMO) of your choice. We can also act as a liaison to Canadian CMOs, and aim to foster a strong and prosperous Canadian biomanufacturing sector.


  • Containment levels 1 and 2
  • Perfusion suite: 3 to 20 L
  • Large scale suite: 20 to 500 L Level 2 facility featuring segregated suites for medium and seed preparation, production and purification
  • Cell culture equipment:
    • bench-top bioreactors up to 20 L
    • 2 intermediate-scale bioreactors 50 L
    • 1 pilot-scale, single-use bioreactor 200 L
    • 1 pilot-to-process scale bioreactor 500 L
    • online biomass monitoring tools
  • Cell separation devices:
    • continuous centrifugation systems with 20 to 100 L/hr throughput
    • acoustic filtration units for perfusion, or continuous with 10 to 200 L/d throughput
  • Product concentration and purification:
    • continuous ultracentrifugation system
    • tangential flow filtration units
    • automated system for filtration and chromatographic process operation
    • multiple chromatography columns up to 45 cm in diameter
    • storage for working cell banks

Why work with us

The cell culture pilot plant's combination of services, equipment and expertise is distinctive in Canada. The versatility of our team and equipment enables us to provide customized solutions for each client, whether the goal is to develop a new process or to closely mimic an existing one. Our team works closely with colleagues in protein and viral vector production, purification, and analytics to provide integrated process development, from gene expression to purified and characterized biologics and vaccines for preclinical studies.

Please note: In the 1970s, Dr. Frank Graham developed the HEK293 cell line, which is now widely used for academic research and in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries around the world. The NRC has developed proprietary versions of the HEK293 cell line, referred to as HEK293SF-3F6 and HEK293-6E.

Image gallery

500 L bioreactor

Montreal, Royalmount Avenue research facilities

Contact us

Martin Loignon
Team Leader,
Cell Culture Scale-Up
Telephone: 438-992-4161
Email: Martin.Loignon@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca


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