Continuous Manufacturing tops the bill at BioProduction Congress
Another strong endorsement of Ireland’s place in the pharmaceutical and biotech world came last month, when it became the venue for the BioProduction Congress. A global event with speakers and exhibitors from around the world, the conference took a deep dive into the nitty gritty, and the finer details, of modern biomanufacturing at the CityWest Hotel on the outskirts of Dublin.
Continuous manufacturing, cell culture & upstream process development, downstream processing and manufacturing strategy & technology: All of these topics had dedicated speakers from the biggest players in the industry.
Roche, Sanofi, Merck and many more were represented as the industry begins to look at how the growing move towards continuous manufacturing can be most efficiently completed and how the problems and challenges can be faced head on.
Across a series of short, snappy sessions typically lasting around a half hour each were punctuated with longer group discussions on topics such as spotlight focus on new facility design and development in Ireland and the UK.
Hearing how mini reactors were mimicking the characteristics of classical bioreactors at microscale, the effect of temperature step change on titer and glycosylation profile of a recombinant human enzyme and the continuous capture of antibodies meant delegates had plenty of options to choose from.
While there is a degree of acceptance on the benefits of continuous manufacturing across the industry, this was a chance to view practical examples of how to solve the complex problems of today’s manufacturing demands. The industry has become a lot more flexible since many of the mega-blockbuster drugs began to go off patent at the start of this decade, and manufacturing strategies are really beginning to reflect these possibilities.
On the floor
While there were plenty of exhibitors showcasing their wares to delegates, there were a few that stood out. An indigenous Irish company doing great work supporting the industry here, Micro Industries were showcasing their single use systems.
GE Healthcare, on the other hand, buoyed by their recent announcement of a €150 million investment to build state-of-the-art KuBios (pronounced Queue-Bee-oh), took delegates on a virtual reality tour of their yet-to-built operations in Ringaskiddy.
While it was impressive that we have the technology take this virtual reality tour at all, equally impressive was the tour itself taking in some of the fantastic facilities for cutting edge biologics manufacturing that GE Healthcare will boast at these sites.
This writer got a look inside some of their bioreactors, as well as the extensive labs that will house hundreds of scientists, all while walking around a few square metres in a hotel and conference centre in Dublin. It could be described as surreal, if it didn’t feel so real to begin with.
Irishness stands out
The emphasis on Irishness at the event was a welcome opportunity to showcase what Ireland has to offer to the industry as it continues to work to attract further investment in the sector, after recent massive investments from the Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Alexion.
The chairperson to kick off the conference was Tommy Fanning, global head of biopharmaceuticals and food at IDA Ireland. The IDA has been central to winning so much investment into the country in recent years and there was no better way to kick off an international conference based in Ireland than with Tommy.
The conference also featured Greg McGurk, executive inspector for the Health Products Regulatory Authority in Ireland giving his perspective on future biomanufacturing facilities that will increase productivity, profitability and product quality, as well as some practical regulatory advice on good manufacturing practice (GMP) inspections.
The National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) does great work in partnering with industry to train the next generation of pharmaceutical scientists, and its chief scientific officer, Michael Butler, led a session on dielectric monitoring of mammalian cells in a bioreactor.
The conference’s emphasis on Irishness was not confined to the daytime programme at the event, as former Guinness masterbrewer, Fergal Murray, treated delegates to a session on how to experience and enjoy a great beer.
A welcome edition on the conference calendar, Bioproduction Congress offers a heavy emphasis on what’s important in the biomanufacturing industry right now. There was a little bit for everyone involved across the whole spectrum of the manufacturing process and the news that the next edition will also be held in Dublin was a welcome one.
Ireland is well on its way to becoming a global centre for biomanufacturing. And the world is watching.