A pioneering decontamination conceptSeptember 2017
BINDER CO2 incubators on the test bench
Dr. Nicole Kühl-Erb from the company InCelligence tests and assesses CO2 incubators for her customers.
At InCelligence in Bremen, everything revolves around cell culture. The company mainly focuses on the areas of methods, quality management, training, advice, and GMP. The owner, Dr. Nicole Kühl-Erb offers her customers comprehensive advice on all issues relating to the cultivation of cell cultures and quality management (QM). She delivers training in specialist subject areas and imparts her knowledge all around the world in the form of courses and seminars. She also provides consultation services regarding setting up one's own laboratory tailored to suit individual customer requirements. InCelligence regularly tests and assesses CO2 incubators, while bearing in mind all important criteria for the cultivation of cell cultures. Even our CO2 incubators were subject to Dr. Nicole Kühl-Erb's meticulous scrutiny…
Please could you give us a brief glimpse into your work?
As my company name makes all but explicit, cell culture remains at the center of my interests – and in particular conveying knowledge. I work as a lecturer and adviser, and support my customers with training courses, QM consultation, control of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), and other documents, as well as in drafting promotional material or in-house seminar materials, and advising on product development for all aspects relating to cell culture.
For the training courses, I'm constantly traveling internationally to customers primarily in the pharmaceutical industry and research sector. The seminars incorporate various topics from general cell culture to specialized subjects such as GMP, ATMP, or bioassays. Each laboratory or company has different strategies, requirements, or units for shaping its work in cell culture. This gives me a unique glimpse into the diversity of this field, which I then use and pass on to my customers as case studies in courses or on my website www.incelligence.de.
What is the main aspect of your work?
It may sound strange, but the most important aspect is that my work provides me with an incredible amount of pleasure and I try to convey that to my customers so that they also enjoy learning and don't drown in a sea of presentation slides. This means that I tailor all my training to the specific customer as much as possible and allow ample time for discussion at events. For the courses on cell culture, it is important to convey that although the “old” methods do work, a few small changes can make the work simpler or allow the results to be reproduced more quickly. In courses such as GMP for sales representatives on the other hand, it is relatively difficult for the participants to picture what GMP is, since they themselves don't actually use it in their work, but their customers do. The direct link to the company's own products or assays, discussion of its own SOPs, illustrative examples from the pharmaceutical industry, and exercises help here to bridge the gap between theoretical understanding and practical application. Following the course, my participants should have a really good basis to enable them to quickly and confidently respond to future questions and problems. Naturally, I am however also available after the course to provide further assistance. What's more, I make a lot of information freely available on my website. This includes quizzes, useful links, and literature.
What areas do you specialize in?
I teach solely on the subjects of cell culture and quality management. These are however then adapted to every level – from courses for those outside the field or beginners, to QM or implementation under GMP, as well as covering all subjects in both theoretical and practical training sessions. We also cover topics such as sterile work techniques, hygiene, documentation, and writing SOPs. Here, I am able to call upon the fact that I have myself worked with cell lines and primary cells for over 20 years, and in the field of QM for around 10 years. Another specialized field is customer-specific training in the area of bioassays. This often involves solving practical assay problems or establishing a new assay together in the practical course. All these courses take place on-site, directly in the customer's laboratory, so that all characteristics specific to the laboratory can be incorporated.
You test and assess laboratory units. One example is BINDER CO2 incubators. What advantages were you able determine with BINDER CO2 incubators?
Yes, becoming acquainted with the units that are used is of course a cornerstone of my QM courses. The structural properties and functions are indeed fundamental when it comes to qualifying incubators, sterile benches, or the like. For me, what first stood out with the BINDER incubator and what I consider to be the most important property when working in research laboratories, is the fact that the interior has been designed without fixtures. Although what is known as the cleaning capability is actually only a prescribed criteria for industry applications, in my view, this aspect is also very important at universities – and I say this having worked in research until 2008. As no checks are made here, cleaning is often not quite as thorough as one would hope. Because of this, it is not uncommon for the incubator to be a source of contamination. On this note, the fact that the BINDER incubator was designed without racks, fans, screws, welding seams, etc. was genuinely groundbreaking. The condensation trap in the water tank is also very well thought out and helps to prevent contamination. Further points are of course the option of divided doors and heat sterilization at 180°C, which is better than the disinfection offered by other manufacturers.