In a recent conversation with GEN, Atul Mohindra, PhD, senior director, R&D, Lonza, discussed a wide range of questions concerning Bioprocessing 4.0 and the manner in which new technologies impact the industry.

“In the first place, I would not call the term ‘Bioprocessing 4.0’ a buzz word, because within the model as it is stated, there are tangible opportunities to grasp. We mustn’t forget that although it may feel new to our industry, both the word and concept behind ‘4.0’ has been effectively used in other industries for several years—the oil and automation industries are both clear examples of this” he said.

“Now that the industry is pushing its commitment to automation and digitalization, we are taking advantage of many opportunities which would not have been possible previously. At Lonza, the type of challenges that can now be met by the industry include a reduction in process deviations through use of predictive monitoring, improving batch release time through real-time release testing technologies, and finally reducing facility maintenance timelines through the use of predictive tools on equipment.”

Mohindra cites a specific case in which the bioprocessing 4.0 model has advanced his company’s technology. “We recently implemented Process Analytical Technologies (PAT) at our plants,” he explained. Adopting such technologies in the development stages of a program, we can use even smarter modeling tools to design and model processes.  In addition, once these technologies are implemented, we will be able to generate vast amounts of data, which can be used for further purposes.  But there are many other applications, such as the use of robots and data analytics for environmental monitoring in our facilities.”

And there are other benefits to be accrued from the new insights into company infrastructure. “Through the introduction of machine learning algorithms, Lonza has been able to introduce state-of- the- art tools to image and select cells during our cell line development programs,” he continued. “So we look upon Bioprocessing 4.0 as a disruptive approach, especially when you think of applying it to machine learning or real time batch release at a network level.”

There has long been a disconnect between upstream and downstream bioprocessing, in that advances in upstream cell cultivation technology have moved more rapidly than downstream processing, isolation and purification.

“We believe that the advances in the Bioprocessing 4.0 concept should help to alleviate the disconnect problem with which the industry has had to grapple,” Mohindra emphasized. “As we look more towards implementing automation and digitalization tools, we will inevitably examine all unit operations ‘as a whole’ to extract the most value of the data generated. To enable this, however, we will need to make significant advances in the purification area, and quickly!”

Turning to the immediate and pressing question of production challenges posed by the Coronavirus COVID-19 threat and the need to ramp of production rapidly, Mohindra is confident that the bioprocessing industry has the resources to deal with the production challenges that will materialize in the coming months, stating “I believe that the industry is ready to come to grips with the COVID-19 threat.”

With an optimistic outlook to the future, Mohindra predicts noted that, “Many companies are already making significant advances in finding a solution, and I feel that if the industry consolidates its efforts (in terms of the development and manufacture), then we will get there quicker, ensuring the continuance of a sustainable, global supply chain.”

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