The coronavirus pandemic has underlined the benefits of modular manufacturing, which has been key to accelerating vaccine production.

Gareth Macdonald

April 16, 2021

2 Min Read
BPI West: Modular tech key to rapid COVID-19 vaccine development
Image: iStock/marchmeena29

The coronavirus pandemic has underlined the benefits of modular manufacturing according to an expert who says the approach has been key to accelerating vaccine production.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was first isolated in December 2019 and sequenced a month later. The first vaccines against it were developed, tested, and approved about a year after the first was identified.

The record speed with which industry created the COVID-19 shots is testament to vaccine industry efforts, according to John Yoshi Shyu, director of Scientific Applications & Technical Support Teams at Corning Life Sciences.


Image: iStock/marchmeena29

He told delegates tuned into to a panel discussion at BPI West that the millions of patients who have already received COVID-19 vaccines around the world have decades of investment in innovative manufacturing technologies to thank.

“Vaccine demand is going to always be there. The typical vaccines that we all have taken like measles, mumps, rubella, these are vaccines that I call the traditional vaccines that will always need manufacturing processes.

“If you look back at how these vaccines are made, versus what the pandemic has taught us is that we need to find a way to create rapid vaccines, we need to create a way to be able to manufacture these vaccines.”

Modular acceleration

In particular, modular technology has sped up vaccine production according to Yoshi Shyu, who expects such systems to play an even greater role going forward.

“Modular flexibility, speed, smaller size, and these are all things that we have seen how the market has shifted within the last 20-30 years, where we used to be in huge bioreactors that would occupy a lot of space. They were very fixed in a process of making that specific vaccine.

“But as we move forward with modular, smaller space single use, it seems to be the new strategy, the new way for people to go faster, right, achieve the right balance between speed and flexibility.

“And at the end of the day, once you know that you’re shrinking, dramatic factoring process, but yet increasing your efficiency all you want to do later on is to be able to modularize that and continue multiplying that process.”

“What we have seen in the last couple years is that this type of methodology and this type of mentality is probably the most efficient way to be able to manufacture vaccines at a much faster rate under different circumstances and not necessarily reinvent the wheel, but increase the speed of how we can achieve something.”

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