By Gareth John MacDonald

Modular manufacturing facilities—production lines built from interchangeable, prefabricated elements—are winning over some of the biggest drug firms Pfizer, Sanofi, and Novartis’ biosimilars Sandoz unit being recent examples.

Proponents of modular manufacturing often cite accelerated facility construction time and the ability to quickly adapt to changing market demand as the primary motivations for investment in these plug and play bioprocessing systems.

But there are other benefits, says Fernando Garcia, PhD, principal process engineer and data scientist at Just-Evotec Biologics, who describes modular facilities as a “paradigm shift in terms of flexibility, cost-efficiency, and environmental sustainability.”

Garcia and colleague Eva Gefroh, VP of technical operations, analyzed various facility models—including its own modular system—in a recent study, looking at how each affects cost, output, and environmental impact.

And a key finding is that set up costs are lower for modular facilities, Garcia says.

Upfront investment advantage

“This upfront investment advantage is a testament to the cost-effective nature of continuous manufacturing… Biomanufacturers can establish efficient production capabilities without incurring the significant financial burden typically associated with building new fed batch facilities.

“This lower investment requirement not only reduces financial risk but also enables a faster return on investment, allowing companies to reap the benefits of continuous manufacturing sooner.”

Garcia says, “With the existing J.POD facilities, which have a capacity of 2.5 tons per annum, the upfront investment required is less than $300 million. This represents a remarkable cost savings of approximately two to three times compared to what would be needed for a fed batch facility.

“This cost advantage empowers biomanufacturers to establish efficient and cost-effective production capabilities while accelerating their path to profitability.”

The study also indicates modular technology facilitates the use of newer, more sustainable approaches to drug production like continuous manufacturing, according to Garcia.

“Another crucial aspect is the improved environmental footprint. The continuous operation and optimized processes result in reduced energy consumption, water usage, and overall waste generation compared to traditional batch manufacturing.

“The streamlined continuous manufacturing process eliminates the need for large-scale batch production equipment and the associated infrastructure costs.”

Garcia predicts that, given these potential benefits, market demand for modular technologies will continue to increase, citing his own firm’s order book as the basis for the forecast.

“Just-Evotec Biologics has made significant strides in the adoption of its proprietary J.POD technology, as evidenced by recent partnerships with notable entities such as the U.S. Department of Defense and Sandoz.

“These at-scale partnerships highlight the growing recognition and adoption of modular technology in the biomanufacturing industry.”

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