University of Sheffield Opens Continuous OSD Pilot Plant

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The UK’s University of Sheffield opened a new chemical engineering teaching plant for continuous oral solid-dosage pharmaceuticals using GEA’s multipurpose platform.

The Diamond Pilot Plant (DiPP), the first continuous powder processing plant of its kind in any UK University, was officially opened at the University of Sheffield in April 2018. The facility will manufacture pharmaceutical tablets from blends of model active ingredients and excipients and will include key powder processing steps for formulated product manufacture, such as crystallization, blending, granulation, and tableting. Students will use, test, and explore integrated processes with state-of-the-art simulations and control systems in a safe, production-orientated environment. DiPP’s equipment, software, and products are sponsored by manufacturing companies including NiTech, Solaris Biotech, and GEA.

At the heart of the university’s plant is GEA’s ConsiGma CTL 25, a multipurpose platform that has been designed to transfer powder into tablets in development, pilot, clinical, and production volumes in a single compact unit. The system can perform dosing and mixing of raw materials, wet granulation, drying, tableting, and quality control, all in one line. 

“Continuous manufacturing will form an increasing part of solid dosage production in the future, and the industry needs well-trained graduates who understand the processes involved,” said Phil Gabb, GEA’s head of Solid Dosage Sales Support, in a May 29, 2018 press release. “GEA recognizes the need to collaborate with academics, as well as other suppliers to the industry, to ensure that the full potential of this exciting technology is achieved. We are delighted to be involved with such a prestigious investment that will make a real contribution to education and industry for years to come.”

The multi-million-pound investment will develop industry-ready chemical engineers for the future, giving students access to real-world, scalable technology. DiPP will spearhead industry-driven research and learning for engineering students across the globe. Researchers will target industry-based problems to understand the different mechanisms in modeling the whole continuous process. The DiPP can also be used for training industry employees in modern engineering processes and tools.

“The new continuous powder processing plant emphasizes the importance of complex particulate products, and formulated products more broadly, in modern chemical engineering-and we are reflecting this our new curriculum. It is truly research-led teaching,” said Professor Jim Litster, head of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield, in a May 8, 2018 press release.


“The integrated powder processing line here at Sheffield will help address knowledge gaps by experimental and modeling techniques and support industry’s drive to adopt continuous solid oral dosage manufacturing technologies,” added Project Lead, Professor Agba Salman from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, in the press release.

“By supporting continuous manufacturing in the pharmaceutical industry, we can accelerate that process and both design and deliver drugs that address unmet medical requirements in a seamless way: from development to manufacturing, it’s fast, it meets industry needs by differentiating products, and delivers the high quality that’s expected from this sector,” said Dafni Bika, global head Pharmaceutical Technology and Development at AstraZeneca, which is one of the industry partners, in the press release. 

Sources: University of Sheffield, GEA