Complex system: A view inside one of Genzyme’s manufacturing facilities. Cells are grown in the steel tanks, from which protein drugs are later collected.

The Next Wave of Manufacturing

Biotech Firms in Race for Manufacturing Breakthrough

By Karen Weintraub on January 30, 2013

Two leading biotechnology companies are competing to be the first to implement cheaper, faster processes for producing drugs inside living cells, making it easier to manufacture human proteins, antibodies, and other medications.

The new approaches will be “disruptively different” says Robert Bradway, the CEO of Amgen, one of the companies pursuing a manufacturing breakthrough. Today’s systems for producing drugs in bacterial or animal cells and then isolating them are hugely expensive and can take months. With more efficient processes in place, companies could swiftly increase production of drugs in high demand, and they could produce medicines for rare diseases more cost-effectively as well.

Amgen, of Thousand Oaks, California, the largest biotech company in the United States, has been mostly quiet on the subject of its manufacturing ideas since May, when Bradway, also its president and board chairman, announced during a lecture at MIT that he believes we are “on the cusp of a major change in how we manufacture proteins.” An Amgen spokesperson declined to elaborate on the technology.

But its competitor, Genzyme, acknowledges the urgent effort to develop new methods. “There’s a race going on,” says Konstantin Konstantinov, vice president for late-stage product development at the company, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We’re trying to come up with the dominant design.”

Read more: Continuous Manufacturing Could Solve Biotech Drug Shortages | MIT Technology Review.

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