Bioreactor Preferences from an Outsourcing Perspective – Part I

Drug Owners and CMOs both have skin in the game when it comes to specifying bioreactor technology

By Kshitij (TJ) Ladage, market research manager, That’s Nice

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Considering the capacious amount of time and resources an organization invests in bringing a biologic to market, bioreactor selection is one of the crucial manufacturing decisions for an organization. Unlike small molecule, the cost of production plays a vital role in the pricing of biologics. Any cost-saving measures implemented at the manufacturing stage translate to substantial profits. Single-use bioreactors have come a long way since their inception, when single-use was considered revolutionary. Single-use technology has established itself as a popular choice at the preclinical/clinical production stage, and is well on its way to becoming a reliable alternative at the commercial manufacturing stage.

The results from a recently concluded Nice Insight survey quantified the slow induction of single-use bioreactors in the mainstream market. Respondents (biologics outsourcers) were asked about their reactor technology preferences, and there was an almost equal preference for the two types of reactors: stainless-steel and single-use disposable reactors (68% vs. 67%, respectively). There are a few kinks that need to be ironed out, namely the cytotoxicity risks, before single-use reactors can be considered as a standard alternative to the stainless-steel reactors. But given the stringent, methodical and conservative nature of the biopharmaceutical industry, innovative techniques have to pass the rigors of tests, approvals and time before becoming an acceptable standard of operation. The future looks promising for single-use bioreactors; industry analysts have predicted the global single-use bioreactor market to more than double in the next 5 years. 

So what exactly does bioreactor preferences mean to outsourcers? Does one select CMOs and realign their bioreactor preferences based on the types of bioreactors offered by the CMO or pick a CMO with equipment that matches their preferences? There are advantages and drawbacks to both options.

Bioreactor selection is a very customized, case-by-case process that is dependent on multiple variables. A CMO may possess state-of-the-art single-use bioreactors, but if the outsourcer requires large 20,000 L stainless-steel reactors to complement a similar setup in-house, the state-of-the-art single-use reactors with 250L capacity will not help the outsourcer. However, a mix of multiple 2000L single-use stirred tank bioreactors along with some traditional SS reactors will give the outsourcer the confidence in CMO’s ability to fulfill its goals.

On the flipside, what is the significance of bioreactor preferences for a CMO? Understanding bioreactor preferences and staying abreast with the industry demands gives the CMO a competitive advantage over other companies vying for business. CMOs need to make sure they have the right setup along with the technical expertise, know-how and personnel to match the reactors. Having the right mix of reactors (stainless steel, flexible, single-use, different capacities) and the right number of reactors will help CMOs win projects/businesses from sponsors.

2013 TO 2015 TRENDS
Year-to-year comparisons revealed that bioreactor preferences have strengthened over the past two years, particularly for single-use disposable technology and the more traditional stainless-steel technology. For the single-use disposable reactors there was a 5 percent point increase in “Strongly Prefer” over the two years whereas the preference for stainless-steel technology showed a 6 percent point increase for “Strongly Prefer” over the same time period. 


(Pharmaceutical vs. Biotechnology)
Nice Insight also looked at bioreactor preferences from industry’s standpoint. Interestingly, there weren’t any significant differences in reactor technology preferences between the traditional pharmaceutical companies and the biotechnology companies. In fact, the preferences were similar except for slight differences in the single-use disposable technology. The Top 2 box preference for stainless-steel technology were 69 percent pharmaceutical vs. 68 percent biotechnology, for flexible stainless-steel technology: 76 percent pharmaceutical vs. 75 percent biotechnology and for single-use disposable technology: 66 percent pharmaceutical vs. 69 percent biotechnology (a slight difference of 3 percent).

The market is flooded with bioreactors based on multiple technologies. Of these, the wave-induced bioreactors and the stirred-tank bioreactors have gained the most in popularity. However, there are a few companies that have bioreactors based on other technologies, namely airlift bioreactors and the vertical-wheel, stir-tank bioreactor. Over the past decade there have been multiple publications, conference presentations and promotions for single-use bioreactors. Following are some of the established and popular single-use bioreactors in the industry. Please note the list can be exhaustive so we have focused only on a few key popular ones that have a sizeable market share.

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