Biotechnology is a mix of microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, cell biology and animal cultures that are used to create solutions to different problems. Our company mission to advance and accelerate therapeutics is more important than ever in today’s climate with COVID-19. We supply the tools and services—like the pots, pans, soups and sauces—that help scientists and clinicians do their work better, faster and safer. In my work as a development engineer, I focus on the creation and improvement of these products for biotechnology manufacturing with a particular focus on sterility assurance.
Cytiva, formerly GE Healthcare Life Sciences, does not develop therapeutics—including but not limited to treatments such as insulin, cancer treatments and vaccines—but we do collaborate closely with our customers to bring these medicines to large-scale production. Today, many of these medications are created using single-use technology. This technology is specifically designed to be used once and then discarded. Consider the analogy of a crock pot disposable liner. Without the liner, after cooking you have to deep clean your crock pot before being able to use it again. When using a liner, you can throw out the used liner and quickly add a new one in order to make the next recipe. In life sciences, this technology takes the form of single-use plastic bags, tubing systems, filters and connectors by minimizing downtime and cleaning time (not to mention chemicals) during the production process. These products not only need to be functional but need to be sterile as well. A sterile claim is vital to our customer’s testing process, because a lack of sterile claim can cause problems with process controls, test controls or federal regulations.
When it comes to the current COVID-19 situation, single-use technology allows for the rapid development and production of vaccines and therapies. Scientists can quickly create a batch of one recipe and then quickly shift gears to make recipe changes by re-equipping their labs and starting again. Automation advances also allow scientists and manufacturers to closely monitor recipe history and quality of these therapeutics. This improves time and accuracy, two things that could save lives during this crisis and which are most important in my work today and every day. By ensuring that we can produce and distribute the equipment that pharmaceutical companies and biotech start-ups need, my colleagues and I are supporting the efforts to produce therapies and develop a vaccine for COVID-19.