Superior Controls is proud to be collaborating with some of the world’s smartest minds to break innovation barriers.  On a recent project, our engineers collaborated to create a machine that can rapidly manufacture biopharmaceuticals on demand. This advancement opens the door to numerous medical solutions to treat patients more effectively, especially for those with rare conditions.

Biopharmaceuticals are therapeutics comprising proteins such as antibodies and hormones. Biologically-derived medicine allows for “precision medicine,” drugs customized to the genetic or molecular profiles of particular groups of patients. For a traditional pharmaceutical manufacturer, reconfiguring their manufacturing process to produce a different drug can take 18 to 24 months. Therefore, most manufacturers choose to produce drugs needed by many patients rather than drugs that could help a smaller number of patients.

J. Christopher Love is a professor of chemical engineer and a member at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. Love leads a team of researchers determined to find a viable solution to make on-demand, small-batch biologic drugs a reality. The goal is to have a fully-automated portable and agile system that can be easily reprogrammed to rapidly produce a variety of different drugs.

Superior Controls was honored to work with Love and his team on this lofty pursuit. A study of the progress Love and his team have made, “On-demand manufacturing of clinical-quality biopharmaceuticals,” appeared in the October 2018 issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology. Dr. Love is the senior author of the paper. Additionally, lead authors include graduate students Laura Crowell and Amos Lu, and research scientist Kerry Routenberg Love.

The study describes an automated, benchtop, multiproduct manufacturing system called Integrated Scalable Cyto-Technology (InSCyT) which can be used to produce drugs for small patient populations. The InSCyT machine is an important advancement in the manufacture of the biologics class of drugs.  These drugs are manufactured in a living system instead of in a chemical process like traditional drugs are.  InSCyT has an accelerated timeline for production of a new drug: just 12 weeks to create patient-ready dosages.

Superior Controls’ contribution to this project included design and programming additions for  a Wonderware control system for InSCyT.  The control system was designed to integrate and automate three process modules: production (upstream process development), pH adjustment and purification (downstream processing) in a continuous process. Superior Controls used Intouch QuickScript to write the custom control loops, recipes and operating sequences for a Wonderware-based HMI.  The system has a connection to the Matlab programming environment to perform process modeling and modify running the process. Data analysis can be performed using the Wonderware data historian package.

The MIT-led team has successfully proven InSCyT can manufacture biologic drugs comparable to currently approved medicines. The ability to make biologic drugs at small scales anywhere opens the door to exciting new opportunities for improved healthcare. From making personalized medicine a reality to producing drugs to treat rare diseases to battlefield medicine, and more.

The research was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific, and the Koch Institute Support (core) Grant from the National Cancer Institute. For additional details on MIT’s research, visit MIT News on the MIT Website.