A recently established contract manufacturer says that its lack of legacy equipment means the company can focus on installing high-throughput technologies. Wheeler Bio was founded as a COVID-19 laboratory to help the testing effort in Oklahoma during the pandemic. Then, in 2021, the company became a contract manufacturer.

“We had a wonderful opportunity to build systems from the ground up,” says Aaron Morgan, the company’s director of QC analytical. “We definitely have a focus on high throughput, and digitization is a big differentiating factor […] and we’re starting with that in mind rather than transitioning from an older system.”

Data generators

Wheeler says it is using high-throughput technologies, such as the Sartorius Ambr® 15 cell culture system, to aid with their process development services. These systems generate a lot of data, explains Morgan. As such, the firm can do high-throughput analytics by running ELISAs on a below-deck plate reader beneath the Tecan RoboColumns they use for downstream purification.

“In a traditional process development lab, the analytical folks would be pulling their hair out because our process development can generate hundreds of samples for a short campaign,” continues Morgan. “So, our emphasis is using analytics, not just for process development support, but to help with method development at the same time.”

The company, which aims to analyze multiple parameters simultaneously and hope, in the future, to automate most of every process, is also partnering with machine learning software company DataHow, which is helping them build a digital twin for upstream process development.

Going forward, Wheeler believes it will benefit from the multiple medical research institutes in Oklahoma, including the Stevenson Cancer Center.

“We like to emphasize [to our customers] that Oklahoma is a good place to test drugs in clinical trials as there are lots of clinics relative to the population density. We have a diverse population as well,” says Morgan, who spoke at the BioProcess International Conference  in September in Boston about accelerating method preparation to speed up development timelines.

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