The role of digital twins in producing a COVID-19 vaccine

Posted on: May 18, 2020 by Niels Thomsen

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.[1]

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 find out more about Process Digital Twins for Pharma or read this press release on a Digital Twin solution, within the global pharmaceutical industry, introduced by Atos and Siemens.

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About Niels Thomsen
Vice President and Global Head of the Insight (IoT and AI) practice
Niels is Group Vice President, Global Head of the Insight (IoT & AI) practice and Head of Global Business Development for Managed IoT at Atos. He is an accomplished business leader with more than 25 years of cross-industry experience in large international companies. Having fulfilled a variety of key roles including business development, sales and alliance management and consulting, Niels has focused on leadership, innovation, growth creation, business value, alliances and all aspects of sales. One of Niels’ core skillsets is engaging clients and building trusted relationships; he is motivated by challenge and delivering consistently high performance, and by enabling his teams to achieve their full potential for the benefit of our clients. Niels joined Atos in 2012. He is married and lives with his family in Munich.

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