Tag Archives: biopharmaceuticals

Gerben Zijlstra – Platform Marketing Manager Continuous BioManufacturing, Sartorius-Stedim Integrated Solutions

Gerben ZijlstraDr. ir. Gerben Zijlstra received his Ph.D. from the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Following his Ph.D., Gerben joined DSM Biologics in Groningen The Netherlands, where he held various positions within the process development, cGMP manufacture, and engineering departments, with a focus on introducing new (platform) processes, new process equipment into the facility and tech transfer of commercial processes to other sites.

Gerben has been involved in the process development of several commercial Bio-therapeutics, as well as platform process development (e.g. PER.C6, CHO) and technology development projects. He was part of the team responsible for the introduction of disposable stirred tank bioreactors at DSM Biologics as early as 2006. 

Gerben has worked extensively in the field of process intensification, integration and Continuous Biomanufacturing in animal cell culture. He is the first named inventor of the XD® (Concentrated Fed-Batch) technology, a highly intensified continuous cultivation mode in which cell densities of over 240 mln cells/mL and MAb titers over 27 g/L have been achieved. This technology was licensed to Amgen, amongst others, to become part of their Continuous Biomanufacturing platform toolkit.

He has furthermore contributed to the development, scale-up and tech transfer of Concentrated Fed-Batch technology to the Patheon Biologics Brisbane site for commercial scale manufacturing. This site received the 2014 ISPE facility of the year award for process innovations.

He worked as a Senior Consultant at Xendo BV in Leiden the Netherlands and was deeply involved in several Continuous BioManufacturing projects. Gerben is a regular speaker on international conferences on the topics of process intensification, process integration and continuous biomanufacturing. 

Continuous and Intensified Bioprocessing

What is the difference between intensified and continuous bioprocessing?

A fully continuous biomanufacturing process consists of interconnected continuous unit operations, without intermediate holding tanks, through which the product travels into the containers for Drug Substance in a seemingly constant flow.

Continuous unit operations represent an extremely intensified form of processing and have short downtimes relative to the amount of time they are used for production. A fully continuous biomanufacturing process might have a perfusion bioreactor coupled to a multi-column chromatography capture step, followed by flow-through virus inactivation, multi-column intermediate purification, a flow-through membrane adsorber polishing step, continuous virus filtration and a final ultrafiltration step operated in continuous mode. K.B. Konstantinov and C. Cooney have written an excellent review on this subject.

Some companies are adopting a hybrid approach to continuous biomanufacturing, such that only the upstream or part of the downstream process is operated continuously. I have seen companies operate a perfusion bioreactor in combination with a batch purification process and others that operate a fed-batch bioreactor with a continuous chromatography capture step.

The objective of process intensification, however, is to optimize the productivity of unit operations. Engineers can achieve this by using more concentrated process streams or optimizing process schedules to reduce downtime. Companies are intensifying upstream processes by increasing cell densities. They can intensify purification steps by increasing binding capacities or switching to flow-through modes that reduce processing time.

What are the relative merits of intensification versus continuous?

Both intensified and continuous bioprocessing can be used to increase productivity, reduce facility footprints and reduce costs.

Engineers may decide to intensify processes without switching to full continuous processing to retain the batch nature of a unit operation or entire process. The relatively short batch cycles allow more flexibility especially in multi-product facilities. Moreover, the batch definition is very clear and companies can keep their traditional strategies for intermediate product release. In some ways, we can consider hybrid continuous bioprocessing with concentrated fed-batch upstream processes and continuous or intensified downstream processes to be the ultimate form of process intensification that allows the retention of the batch cycle.

However, continuous upstream bioprocessing has benefits because it can result in the product spending less time in the bioreactor and near steady-state production. This can give better product quality, less variation and reduce the opportunity for product degradation. Continuous downstream is probably the most productive processing scenario. Using counter current chromatography technologies, engineers can achieve good separation of product isotypes from very similar isoforms, which may be needed during the production of biosimilars.

In your experience, which of these process scenarios is the industry adopting the most frequently?

Currently process Intensification and hybrid continuous processing are predominating. Companies are implementing process intensification strategies in state-of-the-art manufacturing platform technologies. To give some examples, some firms are using high volume and cell density seed stocks to reduce the length of the pre-culture phases prior to the inoculation of the production bioreactor. Others are using perfusion seed bioreactors to inoculate a fed-batch production bioreactor at the maximum working cell density. The use of concentrated fed-batch processing is reported increasingly.

In downstream processing, continuous capture steps are gaining momentum with the advent of new multi-column chromatography equipment suitable for commercial manufacturing. Scalable Membrane Adsorber technology is making large-scale single-use flow-through and bind-and-elute chromatography more feasible than ever.

Fully continuous processes are still mostly under development in the advanced bioprocessing centres of large pharma companies. However, we may see these in a manufacturing setting, for the production of labile products, sooner rather than later.

Which companies have experienced success with continuous or intensified bioprocessing?

Many large pharma companies, CMO’s, and several smaller biotech companies are actively working on intensified and continuous bioprocessing. Companies such as Sanofi-Genzyme, Merck, Sandoz, Bayer, Shire, Amgen, Janssen and Pfizer have all reported some form of intensified or continuous activity.

Companies with a relatively small installed asset base, but a large product pipeline, are especially interested in developing these concepts. Companies with substantial installed base are mostly interested in improving their asset utilization by applying process intensification principles.

What kind of benefits are companies seeing?

The benefits of intensification and continuous processing relate primarily to the reduced need to invest in the traditional, highly expensive production facilities especially when firms can use single-use and intensification synergistically. These approaches can also improve the quality of labile biologics and enable greater flexibility to run different molecule formats in the same facility. Finally, intensified and continuous biomanufacturing could allow more localised manufacturing strategies with companies operating many identical facilities with small-footprint across the globe.

What does the industry need in order to realise the potential of continuous or intensified bioprocessing?

Intensified and several formats of hybrid continuous bioprocessing are ready for implementation right away. Perfusion seed bioreactors and concentrated fed-batch bioreactors can be implemented today. In downstream processing multi-column capture chromatography and intensified membrane absorber chromatography are coming within reach.

Most importantly, the industry needs reliable supply partners that not only have robust high quality products and a solid supply chain, but also offer real process understanding and the engineering capabilities to translate the industries bioprocessing needs into turnkey process solutions that work.

Process development and scale-up tools, process and equipment design, automation concepts, facility layout, disposable design, are all fundamental ingredients that the supply partners should be able to offer.

How can we find out more?

If you want to know more on the status of Intensified or Continuous processing, or how to implement it, please attend the webinar I’m giving on the 24th May (2pm Berlin, 3pm London, 10am New York) by registering at http://bit.ly/2pC7LA5.

Leveraging Prior Knowledge Increases the Predictability of MAb & ADC Commercialization

by Christophe Grimm & Ian Schwartz

The market for immuno-therapeutics such as monoclonal antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) is becoming increasingly competitive. Biopharmaceutical companies continue to develop innovative new products to treat existing disease targets while biosimilar companies are attempting to steal market share from licenced products. To be successful, companies must reach the market as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to minimize their costs and maximize their chances of commercial success. Increasingly firms are also paying greater attention to process economics and the target cost of goods their processes must deliver.

Single-use manufacturing technologies allow companies to install a production capability quickly and with less capital investment. However, companies must still perform process development activities before they can implement this equipment. Firms that take full advantage of the knowledge gained from previous projects can reduce significantly the duration and expenditure allocated to these activities. This allows them to focus their attention onto a smaller number of critical variables that will allow a product with the necessary quality attributes to be produced with the required productivity.

A platform process approach to development is one in which companies gain considerable efficiencies by using standardized approaches from process design through to commercialization. Platforms include the protocols and tools used during early phase development through to the sequence of steps installed in the production process.

By standardizing around a platform, firms can reduce complexity in their operations and supply chains. This can lead to benefits such as reducing costs associated with training operators and reducing the risk of single-use component ‘stock outs’. Global manufacturing assets can be designed in advance to accept platform processes allowing companies to transfer process around the world seamlessly and with reduced risk of process failures at the recipient facility.

Companies can use the knowledge and experience they accumulate on a platform to guide their process development and facilitate their regulatory submissions through experience and lessons learned. Firms can review existing project data for its applicability to new regulatory submissions. Some studies may be transferable and could reduce the burden of testing during new projects.

How then can biopharmaceutical companies reap the benefits of process platforms? We believe that the key is to consider carefully overall objectives when developing new drugs. Our experience shows that by implementing platforms, firms can enhance considerably the speed and predictability of the development and commercialization of mAbs and ADCs.

We hope you can join our webinar to find out more.