What happens when manufacturing know-how meets high-tech healthcare
Racho Jordanov, CEO of JHL Biotech, is dedicating his life to making a breakthrough class of medicines called biologics more affordable and accessible to parts of the world where they would otherwise be prohibitively expensive.
One way to help make them more accessible is to build new manufacturing capacity, but the vast majority of biotech factories are ‘stick-built’ and take years to go from inception to completion. It can then take about another year to get them up and running. Even then, adapting to a quick change in demand – say in the case of an epidemic – would take a long time.
Enter GE’s KUBio, the world’s first modular manufacturing solution based on single-use bioprocessing technology, opening today in Wuhan, China. Made in Germany and shipped by boat across the ocean to Wuhan’s Biolake Science Park, the sixty-two pre-fab modules that make up the factory can be up and running in 18 months rather than years. KUBio has the same high-quality production environment for biologics as traditional facilities.
“Our vision is to make world-class biopharmaceuticals affordable and accessible to all patients,” Jordanov said. “This revolutionary modular facility is part of the realization of our vision in Asia, where US-made biopharmaceuticals are out of reach, and there is a large unmet medical need.”
In a KUBio factory, the drugs are made in single-use disposable plastic containers, eliminating the need for costly cleaning and sterilization. This means that facilities can be smaller, and more efficient. They can be also configured to switch quickly between different drugs.
Biologics help in the fight against some of the toughest diseases facing the world, from diabetes to cancer to heart disease. Also called biopharmaceuticals, they are protein-based medicines that are isolated from natural sources—human, animal, or microorganism.
The way biologics are manufactured has been revolutionized, setting off a rapid expansion of this new branch of medicines that now represents the fastest growing class of drugs.
“This concept of a factory-in-a-box has been floating around GE for quite a while given our deep-seeded history of manufacturing excellence,” said Lisa Stack, GE Healthcare’s head of Enterprise Solutions Project Management, to GE Reports. “When you marry that with some of the most advanced healthcare technology and skill, you get KUBio. It’s a facility where everything has been thought out in advance, pre-designed and all GE’s expertise is built into a template. Things can then be adjusted, but you start with this well-proven design that is can be shipped directly to the end user.”
The success of KUBio is not going unnoticed. The solution is proving to be popular, and new project opportunities are now being discussed to set up units in such countries as Brazil, Mexico, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, among others.