Baby the Bioreactor at BioSurplus in San Diego, January, 2013.
Baby the Bioreactor at BioSurplus, San Diego, Jan., 2013.

By Anggie Becorest & Grant Goad


The number of used laboratory instruments we’ve resold at BioSurplus since 2006.

That’s a lot of lab equipment.  And a lot of untold stories of the highs and lows of a fast-paced and fluid industry.

Many times these instruments arrive at our door carrying a name and an identity.  From mass specs and HPLCs to high-throughput automation systems, names such as Big Bird, Miss Piggy, and Popeye have all called BioSurplus home at one time.

As we carefully prepare each instrument for its next life we often wonder about its history and its future; we thought it would be fun (and informative) to tell the stories behind some of these instruments.

This is the story of a New Brunswick Bioflow IV fermentor, AKA “Baby the Bioreactor.”  Baby’s story begins in 1992.

The Early Years, or “How Baby Got Its Name

1992.  Cytel Corporation, located in San Diego, California, purchased an as-of-yet unchristened Bioflow IV fermentor from New Brunswick Scientific.   It was quickly put to work producing recombinant enzymes necessary for the manufacture of products used in clinical trials for the treatment of heart and lung reperfusion injury.

Grace Mendoza, a former fermentation scientist at Cytel, tells us how Baby got its name:

Bio production people are a little bit superstitious.  Whenever there’s a run, so many things can go wrong – it can come down with contamination, the cells might not grow – so you would try to coax these things during runs.  You would go ‘come on Baby, come on!’  Because of that, we started calling this bioreactor Baby.

Anggie Becorest, VP Operations, BioSurplus, Gary Olsem, Operations Manager, San Diego, BioSurplus.
Anggie Becorest, VP Operations, BioSurplus, Gary Olsem, Operations Manager, San Diego, BioSurplus.

Jump to 1999.  Baby was acquired by Nextran that year, where it was used in xenotransplantation research.   In 2001 it was purchased by biotech firm Neose Technologies headquartered in Pennsylvania.  While at Neose, Baby produced recombinant enzymes used to develop and commercialize long-acting versions of existing protein therapeutics.

In 2005, Neose restructured its organization and consigned Baby and several other items to BioSurplus for sale.  Our expert team quickly set out to find a new home for Baby, and a match was made with scientists at an emerging San Diego biotech company, NexBio.   Baby was again put to work, this time in the research and manufacture of an anti-flu drug.

After a six-year career as a laboratory workhorse at NexBio, BioSurplus was called to auction off a subset of that company’s lab equipment in late 2012.   Baby was sold to biotech firm Conifarma in Argentina.

In January 2013 Baby embarked on a new journey halfway around the world, bound for a productive life in Buenos Aires.  There it will be renewed and installed in a new, small-scale production plant.

Robert Keesee, Adrian Vazquez, Rob Lopez, BioSurplus.
Robert Keesee, Adrian Vazquez, Rob Lopez, BioSurplus.

Baby has had quite a career:  20 years, five companies, two continents.  We’re proud of the role we’ve played in maximizing Baby’s value, and making affordable equipment available for scientists around the world.

As Mendoza says:

It’s really important to reuse equipment, because it’s expensive … and it works fine.  This type of equipment was so well made that it could last years and years and years.  Baby is a great example – 20-years old and made of stainless steel.  Just replace a few of the small parts and it can go on and on, like an old classic car.

¡Buena suerte Baby!  Here’s to another 20 years.

Rob Lopez and Tam Nguyen with Baby, on its way to Buenos Aires.
Rob Lopez and Tam Nguyen with Baby, on its way to Buenos Aires.


View our catalog of over 4000 used lab instruments at! 

For more information, please call 858-550-0800 ext. 201