End-to-End Deployment of Single-Use Technology in Aseptic Filling of Vaccines at GSK - How this Big Pharma company successfully implemented disposable technologies in its manufacturing plant. - BioPha


End-to-End Deployment of Single-Use Technology in Aseptic Filling of Vaccines at GSK
How this Big Pharma company successfully implemented disposable technologies in its manufacturing plant.

BioPharm International
Volume 23, Issue 2

MM: Were procurement supply chain issues a consideration?

NB: The pandemic has clearly stretched the global supply of producers and manufacturers. Within our organization, there are strong supply chain management groups with regular reviews and audits of suppliers. We have particularly rigorous controls in place and also exchange a great deal with colleagues in the vaccines division who have many years experience with disposables selection and implementation.

EJ: Our client voiced concern about single sourcing from Millipore. Millipore has met with several clients to review our strategy around this critical area and is taking action such as developing specific bag holder systems that facilitate the deployment of bags from alternate vendors.

MM: What did you see as the biggest challenges with single-use systems?

NB: The fact that we are contracting out the sterility assurance, cleanliness, particulates, and endotoxin control to a third party requires careful auditing and supply agreements. We are of course concerned about the overall system integrity and the perceived weakness of polymeric materials. We were concerned about the reliability of sterile connections in terms of mold variation. Concerning the Bosch needles, we are concerned about ongoing control of the physical, chemical, and micro quality.

MM: One common concern when evaluating disposable technologies for final filling is the question of pre- and post-integrity sterile filter and disposable system testing. How was this handled?

EJ: Pre-use system and filter integrity testing is performed by Millipore. Package validation testing by ISTA 2A drop and vibration and post ISTA package integrity testing demonstrates that the system is integral pre-use.

NB: We then perform pre- and post-filter testing where appropriate.

MM: What do you see as the biggest limitations or risks when working with disposables in the context of final filling operations?

NB: Solvent-containing products are not ideal for disposables because of the potential for evaporative molecular loss through tubing by permeation. We had two preserved multi-dose products that couldn't be filled in a single-use setup.

Having said all of this, I think the best proof of the fact that these systems are a sound solution is that we have now filled 85 million doses and we have had no integrity issues and no sterility failures.

MM: In terms of the benefits, have you been able to measure efficiency and productivity improvements and related cost savings since implementing disposables?

NB: With the disposable setup, the amount of grade A intrusions for the wetted path assembly and strip down has been taken from 2 h to 0 using the Getinge La Calhene grade C to grade A door. This door has a disposable beta door that is premounted with the disposable assembly, and is pre-gamma sterilized and prepared by the vendor with all the relevant documentation. Also, with this arrangement there is no need for the operators to touch the needles, avoiding the need for SIP post-assembly. The system is considerably simplified. The regulators have commented that it could reduce aseptic risk.

The overall time savings are significant. The system preparation time is minimal, the system build time is 30 minutes versus 2 hours for the stainless steel system, sterilization before filling is 0 versus 3.5 hours, operator training time is 2 days versus 2 weeks, SIP qualification is 0 and no six-monthly requalification, the aseptic connections are 0 versus approximately 50 (which were SIP sterilized), and of course there is no cleaning validation. To sum it up, we previously required 36 hours for a campaign fill and we are now down to 12 hours!

In addition, we had a stretch target to reduce energy. Since implementing disposable technologies for final filling, our site energy usage has dropped, significantly reducing our carbon footprint. In addition, we have significantly reduced the carbon footprint and increased capacity by 40%. Validation and routine SIP are key contributing factors, but of course there are many other factors, as outlined earlier. We haven't yet carried out a full cost analysis, but again we expect the overall impact to be significant in terms of less water usage and less chemical usage. And of course the increased capacity means that the number of days gained in manufacturing capacity is huge.

MM: What are the key take home messages you have gained from this project?

NB: Disposables offer a platform-enabling simplification of many activities. The end-to-end solution will provide the biggest benefits, including reducing assembly time, limiting aseptic intrusion, and enabling modular use of set-ups, allowing for minimum hold and maximum flexibility. Consider all connections as highly critical, assume leakage will occur, and build in security. Lastly, control suppliers through quality and supply chain agreements.

All of our forecasts indicate that there is going to be an explosion in the need for vaccines. Previously we were constrained by capacity and now, thanks to disposable platforms, we can rapidly gear up to meet demand.

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