All opinions are my own.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fine Chemicals: Quality Manufacturing and Technology Innovation in Pharmaceuticals

A recent survey “Pharmaceutical Process Control: Is the Great Divide Growing?” makes one think and ponder about the direction of manufacturing technologies and process development methods in the changing pharmaceutical business model.

I found some of the answers to be conflicting. The problems of technology inefficiencies should go away are the expectation. However, costs and how to go about comes in the way. Survey suggests that PAT and QBD could be mutually exclusivity, this was a surprise and as they cannot be.

For a chemical process to produce quality product complete understanding and incorporation of the physical properties of chemicals, their reaction chemistry and interaction is necessary. Understanding facilitates development of an excellent process. These are the fundamental elements of QBD and PAT.

Survey raises the following questions.

1. Do the survey answers give the direction of the company as a whole or only the thinking of the participating staff? Is the staff opinion in sync with what the management wants?

2. What is management thinking with respect to manufacturing and process technologies?

3. Are the survey questions such that by answering “yes” to one part of the survey could result in an automatic “no” for the other part of the survey i.e. consistency or lack of it?

My focus is on having the best Process Development and Manufacturing technologies so that we can have a process that is safe, environmentally sustainable and produces quality product first time and all the time without repeated analysis.

If we understand the fundamental elements, our creativity and imagineering should result in “state of the art” processes that will produce a quality product. Proper process controls are derived from such knowledge.

Unless we understand the fundamental elements, after the fact improvement effort (Lean, Six Sigma etc.) would not result in an optimum process. Actually such an effort can be expensive. Incomplete understanding will result in less than an optimum process. It will be an expensive investment as is the case in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing.

Knowledge of elements will facilitate incorporation and adoption of state of the art and new technologies. Microreactors are the new “to be discussed” technology after the pharma acronyms. They are being touted as the next best thing after sliced bread.

For the last ten plus years “micro-reactors” have been a laboratory curiosity. Microreactors are simplistically a reaction space that act as an efficient heat exchange device also. If used properly can lead to an “efficient, green and sustainable” process. They are a modified/enhanced nano-version of plate and frame heat exchangers, which have been commercial for 40+ years. Such exchangers have been primarily used as heat exchangers rather than a combination reaction and heat transfer space. They perform extremely well in their dual role. These and similar technologies have to be understood and their value capitalized. Such reactors have a place in the pharmaceuticals (specialty chemicals) and fine chemical world.

Use of innovative technologies and improvement of manufacturing practices is only possible if we understand the fundamentals and apply principles of chemical engineering for an optimum process. Effort is not expensive and once incorporated, we would see very positive results.


EPCOT International