The biopharmaceutical industry has a voracious appetite for new technologies that increase productivity and improve performance, a point confirmed by BioPlan Associates' annual survey on bioprocessing trends and innovation (1).
Bioprocessing innovations in demand
When asked about average budget changes from 2009–2012, those surveyed reported the highest budget increases were for new technologies to improve efficiencies and costs for downstream production (an average 6.4% increase) and for upstream production (an average 6.0% increase). For new products, the largest portion of respondents cited disposable bags and connectors (40.0%), followed by probes and sensors, (36.1%), chromatography products (32.2%), bioreactors (31.7%) and purification products (28.9%) (see Figure 1). Much of the interest in improved sensors, bioreactor, purification and other equipment involves single-use applications. Only 10% of respondents wanted new stainless steel equipment. In services, upstream process development services topped the list.
The survey showed that a common cause for dissatisfaction with current single-use bioreactors, liners and other equipment that is not robust enough. Single-use equipment is still not adaptable to the more extreme mixing, heat and other conditions involved with most microbial systems (e.g., E. coli and yeast).
Figure 1: Select new product and service areas of interest, 2010–2012.
When asked to rate the factors responsible for creating bioprocessing improvements in the last 12 months, the largest portion (72.6%) cited "overall better control of processes," followed by "improved downstream production operations," and "use of disposable/single-use devices."
Vendors' focus on R&D
To evaluate how well vendors' R&D match industry needs, the BioPlan survey asked about budget changes in 2012. Vendor respondents reported an average 1.9% increase in basic R&D for product development, a 2.4% increase for hiring new staff, a 4.3% gain in sales budgets and a 3.4% uptick in capital-equipment purchases. Survey data show vendors concentrating much of their R&D on improved and new single-use equipment (see Figure 2)
Figure 2: The top six new technologies being worked on by vendors, 2010 – 2012.
The largest portion (46.2%) report working on bioprocess development/optimisation services and bioprocess modeling, followed by disposable/single-use bioreactors and consumables, single-use bags and films, filtration and chromatography products. Other examples of vendor R&D include: animal-free media components; bioreactor control; chromatography alternatives to Protein A; cell- line optimisation; sensors and probes; culture-media optimisation services; alternative mammalian-cell expression systems; monitoring systems; culture-media supplements; controller systems; impurities detection; bacterial expression systems; lyophilisation; testing/assay services (e.g., raw materials, glycosylation, viral clearance, cell lines); and packaging materials.