Automating Biopharma Manufacturing

Automation and digitalization function with each other in the electronic plant.

Automation—using equipment alternatively than folks to conduct tasks—offers positive aspects to biopharmaceutical manufacturers in multiple facets of plant procedure, these types of as transporting elements, taking samples, and managing the approach. Digitalization—replacing manual information with digital types and making use of details in a variety of electronic equipment and connected systems—works synergistically with automated processes. Details collected from gear that is related via the industrial Online of things (IIoT) and analyzed with synthetic intelligence (AI), for illustration, make it possible for the handle method to know when a process is trending out of specification, or when a piece of devices requires routine maintenance. The electronic or “intelligent” plant can make use of equally automation and digitalization.

“With the advance of knowledge science enabling variables these types of as effortless obtain to scalable memory and computing resources our rising competence in collecting, storing, and contextualizing knowledge advancements in robotics [and] the rapidly evolving process landscape driven by the open up-supply group, the added benefits of automation and simulation are starting to be available in the notoriously sophisticated realm of biopharma producing,” suggests Marcel von der Haar, head of products approach details analytics at Sartorius.

Business enterprise positive aspects of the digital plant include having new goods to industry faster speedier changeover of solutions, which enables adaptable and multi-item manufacturing improved operational integrity, which incorporates predicting and correcting prospective complications prior to they occur and true-time release, which tends to make manufacturing speedier and minimizes inventory, states Nathan Pettus, president of course of action devices and options at Emerson. Electronic resources speed up the pipeline and aid commercialize solutions more quickly by easing technology transfer. “For example, cloud-enabled information management application that manages solution and course of action technical specs through the total drug development lifecycle is enabling biopharma suppliers to decrease glitches in the tech transfer course of action,” says Pettus.

Automation qualified prospects to improved products high quality and compliance, lowered risk, and enhanced efficiency, states Heather Coglaiti, worldwide industry method and internet marketing guide for daily life sciences, Rockwell Automation. An enhance in right-first-time occurrences potential customers to less deviations and investigations. Predictive or adaptive mechanisms to reduce gear failure, as properly as genuine-time asset administration, assist decrease operational possibility, she explains.

“Automation, even partly digitized, lessens the human errors associated with batch-to-batch variability,” provides Dennis Brandl, BRL Consulting. For illustration, automatic dispensing methods have much less variability than manual dispensing. Automation also eliminates human error connected with manual information entry.

Automation delivers regularity in functionality, top quality, and method, agrees Dushyant Arora, everyday living sciences business manager for Siemens Pharma Usa. He describes that automation and digitalization empower online top quality tests and evaluation-by-exception, which can enable serious-time launch.

Automating flexible and intensified processes

Adoption of these technologies in biopharma is driven in aspect by the ongoing drive for velocity-to-sector and the pattern to adaptable and multi-solution producing. Electronic technologies are also a critical part of ongoing processing.

“As everyday living sciences plants have moved absent from producing a solitary product or service and are targeted more on building a wider array of specialized solutions, the great importance of adaptable production has taken middle phase,” clarifies Pettus. “Plug-and-play” capabilities of automation programs, which enable adaptable producing and a lot quicker engineering transfer, are extra vital than ever, he states.

For scaled-down and distributed techniques that use numerous, equivalent producing lines situated in 1 facility or at many sites, the means to acquire and share data across the organization is critical, provides Pettus. “Today’s automation platforms leverage scalable ‘data aggregators,’ normally centered on software package-as-a-service models and cloud-architectures. [This ability to scale allows] businesses to use automation from the commencing, establish the right procedure, and then scale the alternative as they develop their business and infrastructure globally,” he describes. Pettus concludes, “At any scale, there is too considerably at stake to dismiss automation and digitalization, as they are really crucial items of the quality puzzle.”

Intensified and steady procedures depend on real-time screening for procedure handle. “We are concentrating our initiatives for the ‘factory of the future’ on procedure intensification and connecting unit operations with each other, which is enabled by single-use technological innovation, automation, and system analytical technologies (PAT),” suggests Darren Verlenden, head of bioprocessing at MilliporeSigma, the US and Canada life science business of Merck KGaA.

MilliporeSigma’s very good manufacturing apply (GMP) PAT platform for bioprocessing features a Raman spectroscopy analyzer and computer software that can accomplish in-line, true-time checking of system parameters and quality characteristics. These details can be employed to automate regulate of the bioreactor. In April 2022, the organization acquired Lonza’s MAST platform, an automated, sterile bioreactor sampling process on closing, it will turn out to be section of MilliporeSigma’s BioContinuum platform. The GMP MAST procedure will aid processors evolve from guide sampling to automatic sampling, says Verlenden.

Electronic transformation is an ongoing journey, suggests Verlenden. He provides that some buyers may perhaps want to run a thoroughly ongoing, automated approach, though other folks want to intensify and automate sure device functions.

Upcoming services

The electronic biopharmaceutical producing plant is the “facility of the long term,” but it is also a actuality nowadays. Sanofi’s digital and paperless facility in Framingham, Mass., for case in point, gained the 2020 general Facility of the Yr Award (FOYA) from the Global Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE). The business states that the manufacturing facility is 80 situations a lot more effective than a traditional facility and has a scaled-down environmental footprint (1). ISPE’s 2022 FOYA group award for innovation went to yet another digital plant found in Framingham, Mass.: CRISPR Therapeutics’ facility, which makes use of digital devices and automation for output and filling operations (2). Digital tools permit this facility to take care of a number of production suites and solutions at different phases of development (2). Takeda Prescription drugs International’s vaccine facility in Singen, Germany won ISPE’s 2022 Pharma 4. group award for its use of digital technologies, which consist of an electronic batch file procedure, an embedded warehouse management procedure, and autonomous cellular robots to transport supplies (3). ISPE’s Honorable Mention-award winner, Iovance Biotherapeutics’ autologous cell therapy facility in Philadelphia, works by using digital resources, which includes electronic batch records and centralized equipment checking (4).

Walvax Biotech’s new COVID-19 messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine plant in China is a different example of an smart and electronic plant it works by using Honeywell’s batch process management, building and power administration option programs, and electronic twins to keep track of property (5).

“As the want for speed and agility improves, biopharma output facilities need some way to much better visualize and combine batch processing throughout a variety of devices and systems,” suggests Shawn Opatka, vice-president and standard supervisor, life sciences at Honeywell. He explains that the details capture, recording, and reporting systems used by Walvax will assistance manage auditability as effectively as improve manufacturing. Opatka suggests that info from the stay system will be despatched to the digital twin, where by operators can proactively enjoy for issues and fix them prior to they manifest.

“The application of AI is paramount and will continue on to expand as lots of companies progress in their digitalization journey,” suggests Opatka. “We see much more biopharma prospects intrigued in obtaining plants with arranging and generation executed automatically and working with superior analytics.”

Electronic twins and AI

Working with AI in predictive analytics to anticipate production problems—the predictive plant—is the up coming stage of electronic maturity following a connected plant, says Yvonne Duckworth, Field 4. specialist, director of digital technologies, and senior automation engineer at CRB. “Predictive analytics can reduce downtime and endorse good quality,” suggests Duckworth. She details to a serious-everyday living instance of a vibrating agitator that unthreaded by itself ahead of the operators recognized if a vibration sensor experienced been attached to the agitator, the regulate system would have flagged the vibration as a concern just before it could have been seen by a human eye. “Some machines vendors really don’t however supply this capability some have vibration or temperature sensors accessible as selections, and other people supply a fully integrated predictive analytics platform,” suggests Duckworth. “Vendors have been challenged above the previous calendar year to have an response to the question of predictive analytics capability.”

Another action forward on the digital journey is the use of electronic twins, which are digital styles of a actual physical method. Brandl states that electronic twins have been used for the previous 30 yrs in process industries in which the chemistry of the processes is effectively comprehended. Only recently, nevertheless, enabled by AI and facts availability, have electronic twins been produced for biological processes, in which there is no ‘first principle’ enhancement probable, he claims. “Automation delivers in the information for equipment learning to design the dynamic procedures of mobile growth and map it against the numerous proportions furnished by highly developed sensors,” describes Brandl.

Digital twins are getting made use of nowadays in biopharma method enhancement to improve the procedure in a simulated environment. They can also be employed for collaborating in real-time throughout the price chain and validating new traces and procedures almost, claims Coglaiti.

“We will probable see biopharma manufacturers transferring from making use of the electronic twin mostly as a simulation and coaching part to earning it a important section of the all round dynamic management of the procedure,” suggests Pettus. “Manufacturing styles are getting to be more perfectly outlined and well recognized, and measurements that had been virtually not possible to recognize in the earlier are now enabled with a variety of technologies this sort of as spectral-based mostly tactics. As the field becomes additional relaxed with this more complicated, shut-loop manage and features the electronic process reaction predictions with advanced handle strategies, we will see the digital twin come to be even more relevant than it by now is nowadays.”

“Today, digital system twins primarily based on statistical types, these as multivariate statistical process command, are progressively widely applied to attain predictive and even prescriptive insights into biological system development as properly as GMP production,” adds Mark Demesmaeker, head of facts analytics at Sartorius. “We are now transferring towards the subsequent phase, which will mix information-driven solutions and mechanistic concepts—such as expansion kinetics and certain metabolite consumption prices in upstream processing, and fluid dynamics or neural networks in downstream processing—to get increased observability of highly complex cell society processes or separation and purification ways. This will let the sector to advance to a closed-loop design predictive manage approach in the coming many years.”

Gurus agree that there are some regulatory issues to the principle of making use of AI-centered designs to closed-loop controls. “The use of AI, or even device learning in a controlled setting, nevertheless demands a a lot more elaborated validation framework to manifest [the] excellent promise [of these technologies],” suggests Dirk Wollaert, digitalization guide at Siemens Pharma headquarters.

Pettus claims that Emerson and others are functioning alongside one another in the BioPhorum consortium to produce methods
to meet this challenge. “We are optimistic that a route ahead for these remaining regulatory hurdles is already underway, particularly as we continue on to perform with BioPhorum, other similar companies, and organizations that are presently engaging regulatory bodies close to the environment,” he clarifies.

Addressing problems

In spite of these quite a few likely rewards, just one of the obstacles to automation is the difficulty of calculating the return on financial investment of a project. Figuring out the value is important, suggests Verlenden.

Duckworth agrees that expense can be a barrier. “Identifying the difficulty you’re trying to address tends to make it easier to identify the cost savings,” she clarifies. Some are involved about the charge and effort of revalidating an current process, she adds.

“It is vital for corporations putting in a new facility to think about what tactic they want to acquire from a digital systems viewpoint,” provides Duckworth. “A lighthouse tactic incorporates all the new systems at the commence. A phased strategy, having said that, can be a lot more advantageous if there are limited resources or a want for pace to industry. In this situation, we can design and style a strong community infrastructure which will make it possible for for a lot more innovative digital technologies to be additional in later on phases.”

Development-phase biotech businesses that are shifting to industrial production may well not be as acquainted with automation and the demands for utilizing laptop or computer methods in GMP environments, these types of as personal computer procedure validation, says Michel Claes, biopharma portfolio lead at Siemens. Procedure integrators can present direction, he implies.

In the past, connecting diverse types of machines was a big obstacle for automating bioprocesses, but this difficulty has started to be dealt with by modular techniques and open-source module type package deal (MTP) conversation protocols that standardize the connections.

“With MTP, organizations can easily insert new gear with out getting to be concerned about compatibility and require not spend weeks or months integrating tools when relocating from bench-scale to generation-scale,” claims Pettus.

Common interfaces make it much easier to combine PAT sensors into automation techniques, claims Brandl. “Adding a new sensor for pH, oxygen, or carbon dioxide, for case in point, can be finished at 10% of the cost that it was a number of several years in the past,” he says. A different critical progress gives the ability to port automation logic throughout platforms, which is vital for biopharma firms that have output in diverse areas of the entire world, states Brandl. “PLCOpen has provided the capability to use the same device command tactics in distinctive amenities applying locally supported automation techniques,” he explains.

Sector users have been operating with the BioPhorum consortium to even more pave the way for plug-and-play automation. A present-day concern is a lack of standardization for knowledge integrity necessities, this sort of as audit trails. In a 2021 paper, BioPhorum proposed a harmonized audit path model, which is meant to stimulate progress of a formal international standard (6).

Preserving details integrity faces several issues. “Organizations have to centralize their knowledge mainly because classic on-premises historians generally absence the metadata and contextualization demanded to uphold data integrity,” indicates Petter Mörée, managing director for EMEA, Seeq. In addition, he says, facts need to be reliably saved and managed and out there through its lifecycle.

Having the proper workforce with the acceptable capabilities vital to incorporate and keep digital systems can be another challenge, claims Duckworth. Recognition of the need for staff to have electronic competencies is aspect of the European Commission’s “Industry 5.0” vision, which seeks a human-centric method to electronic systems (7) and incorporates sustainability into the way industries are shifting forward.

Seeking in advance

Know-how is driving rapid and significant change in biopharmaceutical producing, with more to arrive, industry experts counsel.

“Most business players have merely scratched the surface area of what could grow to be a absolutely automatic and digitally twinned manufacturing process,” claims von der Haar. “At Sartorius, we are confident that the organizations that undertake and master these strategies will disrupt and guideline the biopharmaceutical business in the coming a long time, creating gains ranging from significantly minimized time-to-market, reduced procedure variability and failure premiums, [and] useful resource effectiveness gains.”

“Real time release, one particular-simply click tech transfer, autonomous vegetation, and self-changing processes are going to be essential in our long run,” claims Pettus. “I would be pretty amazed if these four locations are not substantially formulated and superior in the coming three to five many years. The lifetime science field is heading to impression all of humankind above the coming two decades in approaches related to how the semiconductor marketplace has above the past 50 yrs.”


1. Sanofi, “Factory of the Future,” (April 8, 2020).

2. ISPE, “2022 Group Winner for Innovation,” (April 26, 2022).

3. ISPE, “2022 Class Winner for Pharma 4.,” (April 26, 2022).

4. ISPE, “2022 Honorable Point out Winner,” (April 26, 2022).

5. Honeywell, “Honeywell Collaborates With Walvax Biotech To Automate China’s Very first Digital mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine Plant,” Push Launch, Feb. 1, 2022.

6. Biophorum, “On the Plug-and-Perform Audit Trail to Link Clever Pieces of Machines,” Press Launch, July 22, 2021.

7. EC, “Industry 5.,”, accessed May perhaps 19, 2022.

About the creator

Jennifer Markarian is production reporter for Pharmaceutical Technological innovation.

Post Facts

Pharmaceutical Technologies
Vol. 35, No. 7
July 2022
Internet pages: 30-33


When referring to this article, please cite it as J. Markarian, “Automating Biopharma Producing,” Pharmaceutical Technological innovation 46 (7) (2022).

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