Bioproduction: A ‘Tale of Two Facilities,’ Says Jacobs

The advent of single-use bioreactors has revolutionized facility design says Jacobs, which has worked in the biomanufacturing sector for almost 30 years.

As the biotech industry matured in the 1990s, Jacobs Engineering acquired Triad Technologies and Sigel Group to expand its expertise in designing and constructing biotechnology facilities.

The firm has since been involved in many of the most prominent biomanufacturing facilities over the past few decades, working on Schering-Plough’s (now Merck & Co.) facility in Tuas, Singapore; Bristol-Myers Squibb’s large-scale biologics facility in Cruiserath, Ireland; Novartis’ Biotechnology Center in Huningue, France, to name just a few.

Speaking to BioProcess Insider at the BPI Theater at BIO in June, the firm’s vice president Sean Sommer spoke about the dichotomy between single-use and stainless steel still being demanded from industry.

“What we’re seeing is really a tale of two facilities,” he said. “We’re seeing the need for capacity with traditional stainless steel manufacturing facility to pump out as much product as possible, but also the need for disposable facilities with quick turnover in terms of product turnover and high flexibility.”

According to Sommer, titers increasing as much as 30 fold has driven down the size of the bioreactors and pushed disposable tech as a realistic solution for biomanufacturers.

“That has enabled a lot of innovation around all of the manufacturing that you see out there, high production, throughputs. In early years, a chromatography column of, I want to say, 0.5 meters would have been a large chromatography column, now we’re seeing two-meter columns. You can see the innovation in manufacturing.”

Becoming the Data Stewards

The life science space represents around 12% of Jacobs’ total sales, pulling in about US$1.7 billion (€1.5 billion). Therefore, we asked Sommer what experience from other industries Jacobs can bring to bioproduction plants.

“It really centers around what I would call data disruption right now. What’s going on with Uber with transportation, Amazon with retail, etc and really that amount of data out there is not only from those industries. If you look at our industry, we need to be able to harness that data. We need to be the data steward and making sure that we are able to collect that data, use it to help our clients make their plans smarter.”

To make the most of bioproduction data, Jacobs has thus created what it calls ‘Jacobs connected enterprise’ to instill some of the best data practices from other industries it works with in its bio-plant designs

“To use a direct correlation within biomanufacturing would be leveraging the data that we create during the engineering cycle of a project through the construction cycle as well as through the commissioning and validation cycle of the project. We’re starting to implement those types of practices on our projects.”

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