Stepping Up Process Control with Single-Use Systems

Published on: 
BioPharm International, BioPharm International, February 2024, Volume 37, Issue 2
Pages: 20-21

SUS aids biopharma manufacturers to overcome the rigidity of more traditional stainless-steel technologies.

The human digestive system provides a layer of protection from undesirable microbes and foreign bodies through acidic digestive processes. This protection allows a certain tolerance vis-à-vis delivery of oral delivery methods.

However, parenteral drugs are not subject to that same level of tolerance as they are injected directly into tissue or bloodstream. For these dosage forms, there is a particular need to guard against other risks, such as contamination and blood vessel occlusion.

Single-use systems (SUS), which are by nature more sterile, have therefore found a home naturally and with more celerity in parenteral drug manufacture. In fact, the global single-use bioprocessing market is projected to experience double digit growth between 2022 and 2030, reaching $15.1 billion by the end of that specified period (1).

Regulations concerning particulates

As adoption of SUS in parenterals is becoming firmly established, attention turns to both process optimization of therapeutic segmentation, alongside regulation evolution. “Visible particulate contamination in SUS is typically performed using procedures adapted from USP [United States Pharmacopeia] <790> (2), Visible Particulates in Injections,” says Mark Bumiller, technology manager, Entegris. “The USP <729> protocol calls for sampling General Inspection Level II, single sample plan, AQL [acceptable quality limit] of 0.65% (3). SUS products typically approach 100% of guidance goals for visual particulate contamination before final packaging. USP <790> suggests testing against black and white background with illumination between 2000 and 3750 lux (2). Many SUS products are tested using normal fluorescent cleanroom lighting on a light table and against a black background.”

Bumiller goes on to state that the extraction method to collect loose particles from the SUS surfaces for testing components and assemblies comes from the ASTM E3230-20 validating extraction process (4). “The approach was inspired by an automotive industry standard used for parts which require critical cleanliness,” he explains. “The guidance on the method for counting the particles is not provided.”

Polymer materials predominate

A wide-range of high-performance polymer materials are used for SUS as a result of their ability to withstand the varying and challenging bioprocessing conditions. For example, polyethylene and polypropylene can withstand a range of conditions; polyethersulfone is used when heat resistance is required; polytetrafluorethylene (also known as Teflon) are useful as inner layers of SUS when using more aggressive materials; cellulose acetate is a hard material that is popular for filtration cartridges; and polyamide (nylon) is a suitable material for outer layers in composite components (5).

As a result of the unique properties of each polymer and the challenging characteristics of the compounds being processing in bioreactors, it is common for SUS to consist of more than just one plastic material. It is common for bioreactors to comprise several layers that all work to contain and protect the expensive and sensitive materials being processed (5).


SUS and advanced therapies

Initially, SUS were employed for larger batch volumes in the production of vaccines, biosimilars, and monoclonal antibodies. Nowadays, in line with the industry’s increased focus on developing novel therapies to treat conditions such as cancer and autoimmune diseases, more highly potent drugs are being processed (6).

While useful therapeutically, highly potent drugs are challenging from a manufacturing perspective as they are dangerous not only to the manufacturing operators but also to the environment, which means they must be contained effectively. Furthermore, such potent compounds are difficult to remove from stainless steel surfaces, leading manufacturers to favor SUS for their bioprocessing needs (6).

In addition to the greater use of highly potent compounds, industry is also witnessing a vast movement into cell and gene therapy applications—or simply for cell expansion activities. With these shifts, SUS is creating a need for accurate yet inexpensive disposable sensing equipment, so that a closed environment is maintained across the whole production process. PreSens, for example, is tackling this issue through the development of non-invasive online optical oxygen sensors for use in perfusion systems (7).

SUS benefits

Across the world, all industries are facing decisions around how to be more environmentally friendly, which usually involves using less disposable plastic and more reusable materials. Ironically, within the biopharma industry, using plastics a single time, then throwing it all away, can be a more sustainable and environmentally friendly option, particularly when compared with traditional stainless-steel technologies—once all the water costs and energy budgets for cleaning and decontamination are taken into account. It has been commonly reported throughout the industry that SUS reduces or eliminates requirements to clean and then validate that cleaning, between batches.

Additionally, it is widely believed that SUS sidestep the age-old problem of cross batch contamination, as everything is thrown away. The disposable nature of SUS also provides the flexibility and nimbleness to act quickly when either opportunity knocks, or when there is an unexpected need to quickly scale back down. Furthermore, manufacturing costs can be reduced with SUS, which will ultimately transfer to more cost-effective options for patients.


  1. Verified Market Research. Single-Use Bioprocessing Market Size and Forecast. Market Report, August 2022.
  2. USP. USP General Chapter <790>, Visible Particulates in Inspections. USP-NF (Rockville, Md., August 2014).
  3. USP. USP General Chapter <729>, Globule Size Distribution in Lipid Injectable Emulsions. USP-NF (Rockville, Md., December 2007).
  4. ASTM. E3230-20, Standard Practice for Extraction of Particulate Matter from the Surfaces of Single-Use Components and Assemblies Designed for Use in Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing., Last Updated Aug. 11, 2023.
  5. Seifert, D. Single-Use Bioprocessing: Why it Pays Off to Switch to Single-Use Systems Now., accessed Jan. 25, 2024.
  6. ESCO Pharma. Disposables—Single Use System for Aseptic Processing and Filling Operations., accessed Jan 25, 2024.
  7. PreSens. Online Oxygen Monitoring in Perfusion Systems: Single-Use O2 Flow-Through Cell FTC-SU-PSt7-S., accessed Jan 25, 2024.

About the Author

Chris Spivey is the editorial director of BioPharm International.

Article Details

BioPharm International

Volume 37, No. 2

February 2024

Pages 20–21


When referring to this article, please cite it as Spivey, C. Stepping Up Process Control with Single-Use Systems. BioPharm International 2024 37 (2) 20–21.