Immobilization of Candida rugosa cells on a solid support for extracellular lipase production has been explored. The use of Ca-alginate beads and of mixed matrix of polyurethane foam/Ca-alginate beads enabled us to operate a batch and a continuous four-phase fluidized bed bioreactor. Cells co-entrapped together with polyurethane into Ca-alginate did not show higher lipase production levels than the cells entrapped in Ca-alginate gels. The addition of gum arabic to the medium greatly enhanced lipase production without affecting the hydrodynamic operating conditions significantly. This fact demonstrates that the reactor system is limited in terms of organic substrate dispersion and direct contact with cells. © 1992 Springer-Verlag.