By Mike May, PhD

In today’s bioprocessing, scientists model cellular and molecular interactions, but it’s just as important to model economics. Otherwise, even an extremely promising biotherapeutic might never reach the market. Moreover, a bioprocessor must continue to model the economics across a drug’s lifecycle to keep it on the market.

As Carlos Rodrigues, PhD, a research associate in the stem cell engineering research group at the University of Lisbon, and his colleagues noted: “Bioprocess economic models (BEMs) are fundamental tools for guiding decision-making in bioprocess design, being capable of supporting process optimization, and helping to reduce production costs.”

But what exactly is a BEM? According to Rodrigues and his colleagues: “In the most basic sense, a bioprocess model is a collection of intertwined equations which represent the various stages of a given bioprocess.” Depending on the application, those equations can cover various parts of the process, such as the intended attributes of a cell therapy made from stem cells, comparisons of various approaches for bioprocessing the same therapy, and the cost of raw materials and manufacturing.

In one example, Just-Evotec Biologics scientists—Fernando Garcia, PhD, principal process engineer, and Eva Gefroh, vice president, technical operations—used “a cohesive series of models to estimate the cost of different biologics manufacturing processes, tie them to market demands and plant capacity, and provide a unifying framework to understand the value of a highly flexible manufacturing plant and process.” These models indicated that a portable bioprocessing facility can provide “the lowest initial build and operating costs as well as the ability to control capacity expansions.”

Overall, modeling can be used to address a wide range of economic factors underlying bioprocessing. As the Rodrigues team pointed out, “Robust BEMs may then be employed for the careful examination of diverse manufacturing scenarios, facilitating the incorporation of innovative strategies and technologies.”

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