4 Reasons Biotech Companies Don’t Industrialize

 In General

Biotechnology is a very broad but highly specialized field with great potential for market impact. As a sustainable technology, biotech could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and therefore our carbon footprint. It covers a range of applications, like personalized medicines, the development of algae as an alternative protein source and pioneering work around tissue engineering.

One of the challenges that biotech companies face is the progression from research to scale production in any of these fields. There are a number of reasons biotech companies find it challenging to industrialize, but all of them can be overcome with the right automation partner.

1. Industrial automation companies don’t understand biotech

Moving from research to scale requires a biotechnology process to be automated. However, industrial automation vendors and contractors are generally unfamiliar with biotech processes. Their engineers lack the training and experience to understand the nuances of biology and chemistry, and things tend to get lost in translation between them to the life sciences experts who initially created the process.

On the other hand, biotech experts lack experience with industrial automation. An industrial automation solution needs to bridge the gap between biotechnology and automation. It should be modular, with prebuilt biotech modules. The user interface should be intuitive so that biotech engineers and scientists can play an active role in configuration and testing.

2. The risk of exposing Intellectual Property (IP)

The more external resources become involved in industrializing a biotech process, the more vulnerable the intellectual property becomes. The pool of biotech service providers and contractors is limited and many are involved in similar types of projects with competing companies. Preventing leaks is pretty near impossible.

Biotechnology is highly competitive and very research intensive. A large part of competitive advantage in the industry revolves around how far ahead a biotech company is compared to the opposition. There is a resistance to exposing their intellectual property beyond the core personnel that are invested in the development.

3. Automation systems are too big and too permanent

Industrial automation systems are often viewed as as black boxes that are impossible to understand or change once they are configured. This does not suit the development of a biotech process to production scale, which is dynamic and requires constant adjustment according to the results achieved. It would not be viable to rely on automation practitioners for system changes, when these may be required on a frequent basis. Plus, many biotech companies need to start small, right out of the lab, then scale up their commercialization as their company grows. Simulation is also a key requirement, so that theories can be tested out offline before making changes to live production.

4. Fears that documentation won’t match the process

Accurate documentation is vital for biotech. In pharmaceutical or food applications, regulatory bodies have especially stringent specifications for documentation. It is also essential for the online system and offline documentation to match exactly. This keeps the process under control of biotech engineers and limits wasting time by repeating previous tests. There is a risk that process engineers and control engineers may alter some details of the biotech documentation through lack of understanding during an industrial automation project. Automating the documentation process— and keeping it under the control of biotech engineers—could solve this problem.

The WonderLogix solution

WonderLogix is a design, commissioniong, and monitoring platform for industrial control systems. It enables biotech companies to scale up to commercialization straight from the lab—and get to market at least 50% faster. With WonderLogix, biotech companies can create accurate, standardized, scalable and dynamic industrial control systems synergistic to their bio-process.

One new biotech customer, Baruch Dach, CTO and co-founder of AlgaeMor, had this to say about WonderLogix, “It’s intuitive and simple to use. I was blown away. What I accomplished in-house in one day was better than what I did working with a process engineer for 3 months.”

Looking to get your biotech product to market faster? Talk to us.

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