The recent outbreak of cholera in Haiti highlighted the urgent need, most acute in the developing world, for manufacturing
capacity that can respond to pandemics rapidly. Modular technology under development by GE Healthcare (Waukesha, WI) and G-Con
Manufacturing (College Station, TX) could provide a helpful solution.
The companies are combining GE Healthcare's single-use bioprocessing equipment and G-Con's cleanroom technology to create
standard modular bioprocessing facilities (MBFs) that clients could fit with upstream or downstream utilities for their specific
applications. If need be, users could refit MBFs with new equipment later without difficulty. Catarina Flyborg, general manager
of bioprocess products at GE Healthcare, likens the technology to Legos that users can link to build manufacturing trains.
Each 18 × 25 ft unit could house as much as 2000 L of fermentation capacity. A set of air bearings underneath each MBF will
ensure that personnel can physically move the units where they're needed. And, because each of the bioprocessing building
blocks will be contained, clients will be able to install them in unclassified spaces.
The MBFs' modularity could help clients quickly set up a small-scale manufacturing facility in any location while requiring
fewer capital expenses than building or renovating a facility would entail, says Flyborg. The new technology could make bioprocessing
capacity more accessible than before and potentially help respond to emerging health crises quickly.
Erik Greb is an assistant editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.