Bioprocess International magazine recently published an interesting article, The Time Has Come for Automation in Bioprocessing. Bioprocessing has moved down the spectrum from art to science where automation can efficiently and reliably handle routine tasks.
The authors described the advancement of automation:
Major companies have introduced automation in the form of communication between traditionally standalone devices such as blood gas analyzers and nutrient monitors. These are tied into automated sampling solutions, allowing such devices to run all day, every day without significant human intervention. The next step is tying that into bioreactors and chromatography skids to create an automated loop whereby a process is monitored continuously by a controller, which communicates its findings to technicians who can then make decisions and act upon them.
One of the experts cited in the article was industry consultant, Larry West of Aspen Brook Consulting. He has prior experience with the DeltaV system and its application in the Broadley-James Bionet bioreactor control system and the Finesse TruLogic solution.
In the article, Larry describes a biotech facility where they used a classic automation solution (the DeltaV system in this case) and apply it to biotherapeutics and running the fill-finish operations on the DeltaV system. He noted how GE Healthcare and the DeltaV team worked together:
…to create a chromatography skid that allows discrete (on/off) functions to be handled by the GE Unicorn platform while analog functionality is managed by Emerson’s DeltaV system.
He went on to note other automation advancements:
…we saw a SciLog TFF skid controlled by the Emerson DeltaV platform, which manages associated discrete I/O. Such application progressions ensure the continued evolution of automation throughout a product’s life-cycle, beginning in research and ending in fill-finish.
The article sums up Larry’s thoughts on bioprocessing automation:
…automation is a valuable tool that “can be used to benefit all of us as an industry. It doesn’t have to be perceived as a weapon with which to reduce headcount or eliminate people’s roles. It really is a tool. And as long as we keep that in perspective and wield it accordingly, this industry will make some serious advances.”
I highlighted some of the Emerson-specific solutions mentioned, but you can give the article a read to see other suppliers’ solution and consultants’ thoughts about automation advancements in this important industry.