How CPI's latest project will help to digitally transform the pharma industry
The pharmaceutical industry needs to change; while it is holding up under the weight of increasing demand for effective treatments, it must also do so in complex conditions, at pace and with reduced waste.
That’s why CPI, a technology innovation organisation, has established a new project driving forward the digital transformation of the pharma industry. Digital transformation stands to reduce the cost and time of product manufacturing and, ultimately, benefit the patient.
The Digital Membership at CPI’s Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Renfrewshire is designed to help remove the barriers to implementation for pharmaceutical companies, and to increase the understanding of the holistic value that digital technologies can bring to pharma supply chains.
The project is being undertaken at the one-year-old Centre, which was created by CPI, the University of Strathclyde, and founding industry partners GSK and AstraZeneca, with funding from the UK and Scottish governments.
This first-of-its-kind facility brings together pharmaceutical firms, technology providers, and regulators in a pre-competitive environment, so the sector can rapidly align on standard tech systems for specific manufacturing processes, and driving business outcomes.
The Centre follows the “grand challenge” business model of the UK Life Sciences Strategy roadmap to combine ideas from the pharmaceutical and technology sectors to help tackle a variety of issues.
As part of CPI’s Digital Grand Challenge, the Digital Membership aims to drive improved patient outcomes, increased sustainability, flexibility and reduced costs.
Dr Dave Berry, director of Digital Business Systems – Pharma and HealthTech at CPI, explains: “Digital technologies help you move at speed in a compliant way. The pharmaceutical industry needs to quickly implement digital technology that enables this to address the cost pressures brought about by our ageing population, and the drive for personalisation of treatments.
“Digitalisation has been implemented across the industry in small pockets, which is great as each small, implemented aspect drives a particular efficiency.
“What we are lacking, though, is the order of magnitude gains that we’ll see when we join the technologies all up together across the supply chain.
“This is the gap we’re striving to address through the membership.”
The high-quality expertise and equipment at the Centre is the inspiration behind the Digital Membership project, enabling CPI to actively demonstrate how the architectures and digital technologies would be best applied in the real world to drive value.
Already the benefits of implementing technology to the sector are evident.
Berry points to CPI’s Continuous Direct Compression (CDC) line as one example of how digital technology processes can aid the manufacturing of medicines.
The platform enables medicinal tablets to be made more robustly and efficiently by using a digital twin to provide a deeper understanding of how ingredients interact during the tablet manufacturing process.
The digital CDC platform results in a 30 to 50 per cent reduction of manufacturing costs and a 69 per cent reduction of energy consumption, as well as a faster processing time, from several weeks to just days.
Berry also highlights generative artificial intelligence (AI), which he says is “an exciting development, but it’s not mature yet in the pharma setting”.
“We’ve been using it, along with other more structured [from our perspective] data management approaches, including machine learning and semantic ontologies, to enable real-time legal release of products.
“Specifically, we’ve been using the suite of technologies to automatically collate quality documentation to allow it to be reviewed in real time.”
CPI has not yet fully assessed the time benefit of the AI as it’s a new development, but it is expected to reduce the time burden from days to minutes for the legal release of a product batch.
The team is also seeing the benefits of standardisation, which is being driven by the Digital Membership.
“The major benefit of standardisation is the fast deployment of new technology as standardisation enables plug-and-play technology approaches,” adds Berry.
“We’ve implemented systems two times faster at CPI, simply because we have used standardised connectivity.”
There are, of course, challenges to the digital transformation of the pharmaceutical industry.
One key issue, according to Berry, is the lack of skills in the sector. He believes the industry needs to start training scientists to think like data scientists to assure they are handling data in the most effective way.
However, the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre is driving collaboration between industry, academia and healthcare providers to promote knowledge exchange.
And since its opening, Berry maintains: “It has been going really well, but we must continue to strive towards making the improvements customers and the public want us to make. At present, all signs are positive, and we are looking forward to welcoming new partners to the Centre.”
To join the Digital Membership, or to find out more about CPI, go online to www.uk-cpi.com\