Batches binned in new production tech link up

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Novartis Continuous manufacturing Manufacturing

Novartis has hooked up with the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT) to fund a project aimed at 'revolutionising'
pharmaceutical manufacturing and doing away with traditional
batch-based production techniques.

Novartis is ploughing $65m (€46m) into the project over the next 10 years, which will fund research at MIT to develop continuous manufacturing technologies and "transform​" the way pharmaceuticals are produced. "We believe the traditional batch manufacturing concept and technology is approaching its limit in terms of further significant improvements,"​ Raffaella Dabusti Wilson of Novartis told "[This project] will enable us to make a quantum leap in the area of manufacturing technology and radically transform the pharmaceutical development and production processes."​ As effusive as Novartis' words are on the potential of the new Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing, they may well have a point. Other industries already take advantage of continuous production technologies in their manufacturing processes, while pharmaceutical manufacturing is still latched to traditional batch-based methods. Novartis slams the current old-fashioned methods, saying they are time-consuming, cumbersome and prone to multiple interruptions as products are bumped from site to site for each part of the manufacturing process. Implementing continuous manufacturing processes, it says, will do away with these inconvenient glitches, and transform the way pharmaceuticals are produced. According to Novartis, expected benefits include smaller production facilities with lower building and capital costs, minimising waste, energy consumption and raw material use, and the ability to introduce new drugs more quickly by designing production processes earlier. "The transformation will require considerable time and efforts into establishing new technologies, new processes and a new mindset in pharmaceutical manufacturing,"​ said Wilson. "It will demand inventing new ways of producing drugs which do not exist today." ​ The ambitious 10 year project will initially focus on pharmaceuticals derived from chemical synthesis, but the aim is to eventually develop continuous manufacturing processes across all production technologies. This is the latest in a series of collaborations between MIT and Novartis, which have focused on a variety of different areas and research fields. In accordance with MIT standard policies, the rights to any technologies developed through the partnership will be split; any intellectual property developed at the MIT Continuous Manufacturing Center by MIT researchers will belong to MIT, and any developed by Novartis at its own site will belong to Novartis. All intellectual property developed jointly will be owned jointly. It is likely to be a few years, however, before usable data emerges from the collaboration. The research will be carried out through Ph.D. and post graduate programmes, with each project therefore taking three to four years to complete. After being published in the appropriate scientific and academic literature, the results will then be passed over to Novartis to pilot at the industrial level. Should the partnership succeed in developing viable next generation technologies and processes, it could help propel the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry forward to a more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly future.

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