Pfizer investment an endorsement of 'podular' manufacturing, says G-CON

G-CON's flexible and multi-use 'podular' facility designs could represent a "paradigm shift" for pharma manufacturing

G-CON says a multi-million dollar investment by Pfizer could hasten the “paradigm shift” in pharma manufacturing towards flexible cleanroom technology and portable facility design.

The undisclosed figure from the Big Pharma’s investment wing, Pfizer Venture Investments (PVI), will be used to support the sales pipeline of G-CON Manufacturing, who makes portable, self-contained GMP modules known as PODs.

Pfizer currently works with G-CON and engineering firm GEA to develop Portable Continuous Miniature and Modular (PCMM) systems for oral solid dosage processing. However, whilst G-CON’s Chief Operating Officer Maik Jornitz told this latest deal is independent to that project, such an investment is an endorsement to the changing nature of drug manufacturing.

“The investment is into the business of G-CON Manufacturing and Pfizer Venture’s confidence in the unique and innovative product portfolio and G-CON Manufacturing team,” Jornitz said. “We are very happy to see Pfizer Venture being a catalyst for the industry to at least review such quantum leap in cleanroom technology and facility design.”

The concept of ‘podular’ manufacturing units is shifting the industry norm towards flexible, re-purposable and multi-product manufacturing for antibodies and vaccines as well as solid dose Jornitz production, Jornitz explained at this year’s Interphex, adding such systems will be dominant within five years.

PVI Executive Director Bill Burkoth will assume a position on G-Con's board of directors.

The new Single-Use?

On the back of Pfizer’s endorsement, we asked what was holding drugmakers back from implementing this technology. “We see certainly the typical adoption hesitancies, which happens with any highly innovative and disruptive technology,” he said.

“Having said this, we are moving along nicely from first adopters towards an early majority implementation of this distinct flexible and scalable cleanroom portfolio,” he continued, adding the industry saw “similar hesitancy with single-use processing technologies and now everybody implements such technology.”

Jornitz also told us G-CON is “the pioneer and market leader in this paradigm shift,” and whilst other companies are looking to similar technologies, they often suffer from “lack of appropriate material quality, mobility and innovation” which creates stability and cleanability problems.

“It is a shortsighted assumption that low capital investment is a great saving, but often result in elevated cost of poor quality.”

Whilst we were told other drugmakers, both small and large molecule, are showing “exceptional interest” in podular manufacturing, Pfizer has been active in developing such systems teaming up with the Jacobs’ Group, on top of the G-CON/GEA collaboration.

The partnership with the California-based engineering firm will see the two create a portable and scalable manufacturing system known as a Rapid Deployment Module (RDM) and, Pfizer told us in February, was a project driven by the trend towards personalised medicine and emerging markets calling for drugs to be manufactured locally.

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