Chief Commercial Officer, NIBRT
The adoption of diverse digital technologies is a crucial driver of advances in biopharma manufacturing efficiency. However, digitalisation progress varies, with some companies pioneering ‘adaptive plants’ and ‘self-healing’ supply chains while others thrive on traditional paper-based models.
The analysis of large-scale manufacturing data sets, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to these data sets and enhanced use of automation are all key technologies seeing increased use cases in biopharma manufacturing operations.
Examples of companies scaling up digital processes
For example, AstraZeneca credits AI-powered manufacturing with improving robustness and increasing yield by greater than 20%.1 Amgen’s collaboration with Amazon Web Services is expanding from initial applications in R&D to manufacturing operations including deployment of machine learning models for predictive maintenance. Meanwhile, Sanofi has also declared its ambition to be ‘the first pharma company powered by artificial intelligence at scale.’2
One of the most consistent trends is that access
to a sustainable pool of talent is a key determinant
for success in biopharma operations.
Tech talent access drives success in digital operations
One of the most consistent trends is that access to a sustainable pool of talent is a key determinant for success in biopharma operations. As manufacturing evolves, operations personnel need a broader range of digital skills in addition to traditional manufacturing expertise.
For example, the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) analysis indicates that 88% of US member companies’ manufacturing timelines are impacted by the talent gap. Critical skills required include quality control (QC), quality assurance (QA), manufacturing, process development and analytical development while digital skills needed include IT, AI, automation, programming, data management and analysis.3
Within an Irish context, key stakeholders are developing a broad range of digital training solutions. NIBRT offers courses on topics including data analytics, eBatch Records, design of experiments and multivariate analysis, among others — and how they relate to biopharma manufacturing. ATU Sligo has just launched a new MSc in Biopharma 4.0.
The opening of Digital Manufacturing Ireland is also a welcome addition to support companies in their digital evolution. However, a significant challenge remains in addressing the demand for a diverse set of digital skills in the evolving landscape of biopharma operations.
 Manufacturing Strategies for Sustainable Global Growth, BMWS 2023, Astra Zeneca
 Amgen expands pact with Amazon to usher drug manufacturing into the AI era, Nov 2023, Fierce Pharma
 Workforce Report Gap Analysis for CGT Sector, March 2023, Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM)