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


Posted on: May 18, 2020 by David Sele

Accelerating drug production

Immunization and vaccines prevent 4-5 million deaths every year according to the WHO. Once a vaccine has been discovered and developed, there is 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 drug development & manufacturing process.

One emergent domain is the advance in the use of digital twins. 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 be absolutely no compromise on quality and reliability. Digital Twins promise to transform and improve pharmaceutical manufacturing, enabling faster development and better quality management.

Digital twin: a full live replica

Firstly, by equipping each stage of the vaccine manufacturing process with in-line sensors and process analytical technology, it’s now possible to collect diverse sets of rich data to understand exactly what is happening in real-time. By combining this data with physical, chemical and biological models of process components, we can create 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 step can be simulated in order to understand and test the effects. Thanks to the latest artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, predictive and prescriptive models can be developed that generate new insights into all aspects of vaccine production.

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 production processes are robust and produce best-quality results.

Digital technology has a vital part to play throughout the vaccine development, from understanding the pathogen all the way to in-human clinical trials. 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 safer.

For further information, I invite you to find out more about Process Digital Twins for Pharma

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About David Sele
IoT and Analytics, Digital Manufacturing, Atos
David is an offering manager with 10 years of international experience in IoT and AI for manufacturing and life sciences. With Atos, a global leader in digital transformation, he is helping life science manufacturers improve and transform business operations with data-driven technologies such as digital twins.David is based in Switzerland and has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the ETH Zürich.

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