TU Delft and Janssen collaborate on affordable medicines

News - 19 June 2023 - Communication TNW

Demand for affordable biopharmaceuticals such as vaccines and cancer drugs is steadily increasing. Researchers from the Department of Biotechnology at TU Delft's Faculty of Applied Sciences are now set to join forces with pharmaceutical company Janssen to develop a solution. The official project launch took place on 16 June 2023. The aim of the project is to replace manual operations in order to design automated, continuous biotech processes with higher yields. 

Automated production methods eliminate manual operations, such as interim manual measurements to check that everything is going according to plan. That is why the new process will be entirely "hands-free". Biotechnological processes are designed by running computer-based simulations to mimic processes and using advanced measurement equipment combined with mathematical models to track and validate the simulated effects in the laboratory. This methodology provides insights that lay the groundwork for automated and continuous small-scale production processes in the biopharmaceutical sector, which can then be tested for future applications on an industrial scale.

Stable processes and higher-quality products
Biopharmaceuticals are an important class of drugs based on proteins, such as monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs are made through a process where large quantities are produced at once. To keep these processes affordable for patients without jeopardising competitiveness, they need to be optimised. Switching to higher cell concentrations, automated process control and continuous production can improve the efficiency of the biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes without moving to bigger factories. In fact, these developments may pave the way for smaller plants. Moreover, automated process control and continuous production ensure stable processes with consistent product quality. However, making these adjustments is not easy and requires advanced process modelling, monitoring and optimisation strategies based on calculations and practical experience.

Benefits of cooperation
TU Delft PhD students Miki Segami and Mariana Carvalho argue that the cross-fertilisation between Janssen and TU Delft made it possible to seamlessly link scientific research to current societal needs and challenges. A unique combination of biopharmaceutical research, tapping interdisciplinary expertise and talent development: these are just some of the many benefits of the partnership between Janssen and TU Delft.

For me, this highly relevant partnership between academia and industry is a real two-way street. We both benefit from each otherā€™s ideas and generate more substantial research impact.

Mariana Carvalho

Research by Mariana Carvalho, TU Delft
Mariana Carvalhoā€™s research revolves around treating biopharmaceuticals with the goal of transitioning to integrated, continuous biopharmaceutical treatment. To make this happen, researchers will also harness a combination of computational simulations and advanced analytical techniques to better understand what happens during product treatment and to monitor trends in real time. This project can affect the availability and affordability of biopharmaceutical products by reducing processing time and costs. 

I am very excited about working with Janssen because I believe that public-private partnerships are essential for socially relevant research. I hope my PhD research can contribute to making biopharmaceuticals more accessible to patients.

Miki Segami

Research by Miki Segami, TU Delft
Miki Segami's research focuses on optimising a bioreactor for biopharmaceutical production by switching from manual measurements to automated control. This is done by using computational simulations to understand what happens in the bioreactor and advanced analytical techniques to monitor the production process in the lab in real time. This project aims to automate monitoring and control systems to increase production reliability while ensuring high product quality.

More information: Marieke Klijn lab

PhD candidate

Mariana Cesar Carvalho

PhD candidate

Miki Segami

Dr. ir. Marieke Klijn

Assistant Professor