'Podular' manufacturing to become facility norm within 5 years, say GEA and G-CON

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‘Podular’ manufacturing systems will dominate facility design within five years, say G-CON and GEA who have teamed with Pfizer to create a flexible, repurposable and portable facility. 

Last year, Pharma Giant Pfizer teamed up with GEA Pharma Systems and G-CON in order to develop portable, flexible and continuous processing systems the firms told us had the potential to transform the industry.

The project is being showcased at Interphex in New York and in-Pharmatechnologist.com took the opportunity to speak to GEA’s Business Development Manager Richard Steiner and G-CON’s COO Maik Jornitz to find out just how it worked and what the fuss was regarding ‘podular’ manufacturing. 

We see that ‘podular’ systems instead of ‘modular’ systems are becoming the future trend,” Jornitz told us. “When we talk about flexible facilities, it means multi-product facilities and re-purposable facilities.”

He continued to say that the industry norm for these sorts of systems are still dedicated to one product, and cannot be repurposed. “[G-CON] with Pfizer and GEA in a team effort we create a pod – a flexible facility for oral solid dosage forms. 

However, there has been some interest from biopharma firms to take this manufacturing approach to antibody and vaccine production. “If you want small volume vaccine facilities, flexible, fast-deployed, and again mobile, this is the future.”

“It won’t be in 20 years, it will be in five years. Podular systems will dominate the next facility designs.”

Pfizer and Manufacturing

Pfizer brings a number of attributes to the Portable Continuous Miniature and Modular (PCMM) systems, Steiner told us, including “unique dry-blending technology,” and “the whole PAT, advanced process control” of the system.

The first unit is scheduled to begin operation, he added in January 2015.

We also asked if this project was unique. “There are other manufacturers out there which refurbish containers,” Jornitz told us, “but containers are heavy, prone to corrode and are not as outfitted as these pods.” 

Last month Pfizer teamed up with another engineering firm – the California US-based Jacob’s Group - in order to work on ‘off-the shelf’ scalable manufacturing systems called Rapid Deployment Modules (RDM).

Such flexible systems are being driven by the declining volume of individual therapies, driven to some extent by the growth in personalized medicines, and local manufacturing in emerging markets, Pfizer spokesman Kevin Nepveux told this publication.

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