The COVID-19 pandemic has the bioprocessing sector battling to keep staff safe while maintaining the supply of systems vital for vaccine development. Authorities worldwide are scrambling to slow the spread of the infection. For example, the United States and European Union have both taken measures to restrict travel and are advising people to limit contact with others. Efforts to develop a SAR-CoV-2 vaccine have also accelerated, which is impacting the bioprocessing technology and services industry.
Sartorius spokesman Timo Lindemann told GEN, “We are supporting customers in several countries to develop a vaccine against coronavirus and will extend this support later to help them produce this vaccine.” However, COVID-19 has made it harder to manufacture and supply bioprocessing systems to customers according, to Lindemann, who said forecasting what will happen next to develop a production plan is also a challenge.
“So far, the impact of coronavirus crisis on supply chains, production, and shipments to customers has still been manageable, but the high dynamics of this situation are very challenging, of course, so short- and medium-term predictability is extremely limited,” he explained. “Generally, the impact of the coronavirus crisis will also depend on how long it lasts, which is currently impossible to estimate.”
At present, Sartorius says it has largely suspended business trips and is using video conferencing to support customers. The company added, “Many employees have been working from home since the beginning of this week.”
GE Healthcare has taken similar steps. According to a spokeswoman, the firm has implemented measures to help protect employees as the company continues to deliver critical medical equipment and servicing to our customers and partners. “GE’s number one priority is the health and safety of our employees. We are working closely with local governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to actively monitor the outbreak and take all necessary precautions,” she added.
Thermo Fisher Scientific—the parent organization of Patheon and Fisher Clinical Services—is also keeping a close eye on the pandemic. In a statement this week the firm said that, although its sites are open, it has moved to restrict employee movement.
“Thermo Fisher has made the decision to ban travel via air, rail, or sea for all of our employees globally. As a result, we are asking our team to conduct upcoming meetings with our customers virtually, where possible.” The firm also said, “When it comes to visiting our sites, the decision has been made to prohibit all non-essential and non-critical visitors through April 15, 2020, and instead conduct meetings virtually where possible.”