Sartorius has opened a testing center for chromatography systems and other downstream processing equipment in the U.K. citing customer demand. The center of excellence in Havant, Hampshire, was showcased recently at a “virtual” opening ceremony. The facility was designed to allow pharma and biotech firms carry out factory acceptance tests (FATs)—checks to ensure a system operates as required—on downstream processing technologies before shipment.

The facility cost around £7 million ($9.6 million) to build, according to Matthew Bylett, head of operations and managing director of Sartorius Stedium chromatography systems, and will host an expanded workforce.

“The business was recently divested as part of an acquisition and we moved the location to expand our capacity and separate from the previous company. We have grown by approximately 80% since the acquisition and currently have 100 full time employees,” he tells GEN.

Sartorius acquired the business a year ago from Danaher, which divested it along with other assets as a condition of its take-over of GE Healthcare Life Science’s biopharmaceutical technologies business.

Virtual visits

The center can host on-site customer visits during which they can inspect and test technologies. They also have the option to carry out virtual inspections using Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, Bylett explains.

“In truth, working virtually makes commissioning and demonstrating equipment more time-consuming and difficult, but of course, given there are few other options, we have successfully overcome these challenges,” he says, adding that the rationale for allowing biopharmaceutical industry customers to test technologies is logical from a business standpoint.

“Going forward, demonstrating the equipment typically gives customer confidence and helps build partnerships that lead to repeat orders,” Bylett points out.

Investment in the facility also fits with growing industry interest in innovative manufacturing technologies and methods, according to Mark Demesmaeker, Sartorius’ head of data analytics.

“The industry demand for digital technologies in the context of Biopharma 4.0, including digital process development and smart manufacturing, is massively expanding, with major players moving towards smart manufacturing concepts,” he says. “As competition increases with biosimilars and CDMOs entering the market, key challenges emerge, such as reducing time to market, decreasing cost of goods sold, and improving process efficiencies, yield, and quality, that can be addressed with a digital/data-driven approach.”

This view is shared by Priyanka Gupta, head of market entry strategy, protein segment,  Sartorius Stedim Biotech, who says this demand is reflected in many of the firm’s technology development collaborations.

“We certainly collaborate with partners on developing technologies,” he says. “We prioritize opportunities and partners for co-development based on a number of criteria, including an assessment of market needs, estimated market size, resource investment, and time horizon, among others.”

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