This year’s International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) Mid-Atlantic Science & Technology Showcase (MAST) was held on March 27th at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, Maryland. Hosted by ISPE’s Chesapeake Bay Chapter, the annual event features innovative technology and cutting-edge products in biomanufacturing and drug development. The showcase is attended by key life sciences and biotech players from across the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR) and attracted exhibitors from across the country who are interested in engaging with companies in the region.
From the showcase floor and the keynote speaker lunch to the education sessions and the after party, the excitement surrounding the region’s impending growth was palpable. Our team manned the Lab Owl booth and canvassed the event catching up with clients and collaborators, meeting many new people and companies, and hearing a variety of important topics and trends that are moving the industry forward.
Here are five key takeaways from MAST 2019, which was the most highly attended in the event’s history.
1. The Regional Emergence of Cell and Gene Therapy Shifts Manufacturing Paradigm. Cell and gene therapy manufacturing and their respective supply chains are radically different from more traditional biotech manufacturing processes. Traditional biomanufacturing requires complex facility infrastructure designed to produce large batches with long lead times. Cell and gene therapy production is personalized: One batch equals one patient and requires more individual batches produced more quickly by smaller equipment that requires highly flexible facilities and a much more complex supply chain.
How the BHCR region adapts to cell and gene therapy company needs across workforce planning, commercial lab space development and manufacturing products and services will be interesting to watch this year and beyond.
2. Smart Sensors Reduce Operations Costs. Smart sensors attached to key manufacturing and facility equipment last longer and provide the real-time process measurement required for effective automation. Where pH or DO probes might last two batches max, smart sensors have an extended lifecycle while providing integrated, real-time data and calibration information. Leveraging these mini-data processors, organizations can significantly increase efficiency while reducing operating costs.
3. Single-Use Technology Becoming Strategic Approach. Single-use or disposable technology is rapidly becoming an overarching strategic approach at many biomanufacturing facilities. Just a few years ago, single-use technology was typically used in isolation predominantly for storage and hold applications. Today, stronger awareness of disposable tech’s economic benefits and the emergence of personalized medicine is driving greater single-use adoption. In some cases, entire facilities are being designed around single-use flow paths. AstraZeneca’s MAST presentation on its single-use tech journey from initial use to a single-use management system is evidence of this trend.
4. Automation and New Technology Talent in High Demand. The emergence of new technologies and increased automation within product development and manufacturing is creating higher demand across the BHCR for varying new skill sets. Though the traditional biotechnology talent pool of biochemists, molecular biologists and chemical engineers are still important, the need for good process engineers, automation engineers and IT data management talent is greater than ever before.
5. Rapid Growth On the Horizon. The BioHealth Capital Region is on the verge of rapid growth with approximately 2,000 jobs coming to the area in the very near term. This impending growth will challenge the region in many ways, yet it presents a tremendous opportunity across every facet of the BioHealth Capital Region.
The MAST showcase provided the Lab Owl team with a great opportunity to network and collaborate with the very best the region has to offer. We caught a glimpse of the BHCR’S future–it’s certainly an exciting time and Lab Owl is ready to do its part to make this bright future a reality.