Johnson & Johnson: Theory of Connectivity

Since 2010, Christine Ingersoll and her students have collaborated with researchers at Johnson & Johnson throughout both the summer and academic year.

Since 2010, Christine Ingersoll and her students have collaborated with researchers at Johnson & Johnson throughout both the summer and academic year.

They develop and implement automated sample preparation methods for the characterization of cell culture media. This research gives Muhlenberg students the opportunity to work on applied research using fundamental analytical techniques while interacting with biologists, chemists and engineers on a regular basis.

“Cell culture media is the broth used by the pharmaceutical industry to culture cells. The media contain nutrients that are essential for the cells to grow, multiply, and survive,” says Ingersoll, professor of chemistry at Muhlenberg College. “Because the media are very complex mixtures, containing many different amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, vitamins, etc., it is important to understand how changes in individual constituents affect the culturing process. Having methods that can determine the identities and amounts of the individual constituents in the media is important.”

Christine Ingersoll, professor of chemistry at Muhlenberg, works with students involved in a partnership with Johnson & Johnson.

Ingersoll’s students use a technique called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to separate, identify, and quantify components of the media. The preparation process is complex and tedious, because the chemical structure of the components must first be changed to make them more thermally stable and more easily converted to a gas to allow for analysis.

To do that, they’ve developed an automated method of sample preparation that uses a robot to add necessary components and complete a step-by-step process to receive an organic extract. By picking values for a number of factors, students can program the robot to optimize the sample preparation prior to analysis.

This work has impacts beyond the classroom - their research can be directly applied in pharmaceutical and other fields where cell culturing is important, including food and fermentation industries.

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