Biosciences and medicine manufacture have some of the most exciting and technologically advanced improvements across all industry. One big driver is personalised medicine, making treatments specific to the patient but at the same or similar cost to mass-produced therapies. Another is the democratisation of pharmaceuticals, to make life saving medicines available to patient developing countries where the pharmaceutical companies can still make money. Providing drugs to remote communities has pushed the development of 3D printed pharmaceuticals. These are all complex, expensive and global problems perfect for clever engineers and innovative manufacturing researchers and companies. They will require higher levels of academic-industry collaboration than ever before to solve them.
Continuous manufacture and crystallisation
In medicine manufacture there is an urgent need to translate new molecules into high-value products through rapid predictive development pathways and integrated continuous manufacturing systems, enabling more personalised, responsive and flexible product provision through digitalised supply chains. Universities and global pharma companies are collaborating on new manufacturing processes that can make medication continuously but with small formulaic variations.
One key solution to the challenge of continuous manufacturing is having predictive design tools to reduce the time and cost of new product development. Rigorous product and performance analysis can help science-based manufacturing like this to apply predictive design tools into their process.
Targeted healthcare at the cellular level
By 2025 targeted biological medicines will transform the precision of healthcare prescription, improve patient care and quality of life. The current “one-size-fits-all” approach to drug development is being challenged by the growing ability to create stratified and personalised medicines targeted to specific sub-populations and even individuals.
As with continuous manufacturing, research hubs and industry are working on the new manufacturing infrastructure and capabilities needed to enable manufacturers to fully exploit precision-medical advances, through new technologies, and intellectual property. A unified MES could potentially help create “standard operating procedures” for next generations medicine manufacture.
Skills and training
Chemical and pharmaceutical engineering have, country for country, the largest number of job vacancies to qualified applicants in engineering. Conversely, chemical engineering jobs has one of the biggest salary premiums in the engineering profession.
Greater visibility and promotion of the long-term, secure, well-paid and fulfilling pharma engineering and R&D jobs is needed. Also new, powerful simulation software to calculate formulations more quickly in ‘digital twins’, should ease the demand for the number of engineers.
Personalised orthotics and prosthetics
Designing and making prosthetics – artificial limbs and body parts – has always been a craft skill. But the field of upper limb prosthesis is dominated by designs which are expensive, heavy and uncomfortable with limited functionality leading to poor uptake, with rejections rates up to 45% reported in some literature.
New materials including composite materials fused to titanium, additive manufacturing and multi-discipline engineering – biological, electronic and mechanical engineering knowledge – including anthropomorphic design, are helping develop the knowledge to manufacture more accurate and natural prostheses. Where engineers need to blend new materials and techniques with the traditional, in varying batch sizes, controlling and visualising all your inputs and outputs will help to simplify these increasingly complex products.
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