The role of digital twins in producing a COVID-19 vaccine
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is waiting for an effective vaccine as the only sustainable way to prevent the disease. With between two and three million deaths prevented every year by vaccination, only clean drinking water rivals its ability to save lives.
Accelerating drug production
Once a vaccine has been discovered and developed, there will be huge pressure on pharmaceutical companies to accelerate its mass production. While this brings significant challenges, more rapid responses are now possible thanks to the power of data and advanced computing to help scientists’ model and simulate the disease and the drug manufacturing process.
One emergent domain is the advance in the use of digital twins in vaccine development and production. Intense pressure is on teams all over the world to accelerate research, development and time to market for a new vaccine. At the same time, there must – of course – be absolutely no compromise on quality and reliability.
Digital twin: a full live replica
Firstly, by equipping each stage of the vaccine manufacturing process with in-line sensors, it’s now possible to collect diverse sets of rich data to understand exactly what is happening in real-time. Then, by combining this data with physical, chemical and biological models, it’s possible to build a ‘digital twin’ of the whole vaccine production process.
This digital twin works as a live replica of all physical processes, so that every part of every stage can be optimized and any changes to any process can be simulated in order to understand and test the effects. Thanks to the very latest artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, predictive and prescriptive models can be produced that generate new insights into all aspects of vaccine production.
Faster times to market and higher-quality products
In research and development, continual simulation at each step makes it possible to test and optimize new processes without losing precious time or resorting to costly investments. Scientists can simulate changes in order to test them before they are implemented. In-line measurement using innovative new ‘quality by design’ models ensures that processes are robust and produce best-quality results. Crucially, this new ability to monitor quality and make adaptations during production reduces waste and accelerates times to market.
With the attention of the world on the search for a COVID-19 antidote, state-of-the-art technology has a vital part to play throughout the research and development lifecycle, from scientists’ first visualizations of the molecular structure of the virus, to bringing a vaccine out of the laboratory and into doctors’ surgeries all over the world. An advanced data-driven digital twin of the vaccination production process is one of many exciting developments at the leading edge of pharmaceutical companies’ work, enhancing their ability to bring vaccines to patients faster and in the most effective and efficient way.
For further information, I invite you to read this press release on a Digital Twin solution introduced by Atos and Siemens within the global pharmaceutical industry.