Facilty Design & Management / Unit Operations

INTERPHEX 2019: Still hip at forty

This year's conference marked 40 years of showcasing innovation

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

This year, INTERPHEX celebrated 40 years of showcasing state-of-the-art innovation and technology to positively impact pharma, bio and device development and manufacturing. Pharma Manufacturing editors spent three days walking the tradeshow floors at NYC’s Javits Center, looking at new products, talking with vendors, and soaking in the vibe.

The theme of this year’s show, “Focus on Innovation and Industry Trends” held true, with many companies using the event to launch new, improved or expanded technologies with the end goal of manufacturing cost-effective, quality products. Key themes spotted by our editors at INTERPHEX 2019 included:

Scaling out versus scaling up

As products move from development to commercial manufacturing, production scale changes are a necessary battle. For years in pharma, the industry standard has been to scale up — and large batches of blockbuster products warranted this philosophy. In biopharma, this meant continually increasing the size of expensive bioreactors. But as many vendors at INTERPHEX demonstrated, recent improvements to single-use technologies and cell culture productivity, coupled with the market demand for smaller, more personalized batch sizes, have made scaling out a viable option. In terms of bioreactors, for example, scale out means that bioreactors stay at the same small volumes while manufacturers instead increase the number of bioreactors used in the manufacturing process. This can provide several cost and flexibility advantages over scale up.

Growing demand for aseptic processing tools

Now that advanced aseptic processing has a firm hold within the pharma industry, drugmakers are looking to adapt aseptic techniques so that they can accommodate diverse production needs. Aseptic filling of parenterals continues to be one of the most challenging tasks within pharmaceutical manufacturing and many exhibitors showcased products designed to address these challenges. New treatment options, such as cell and gene therapies, have different manufacturing requirements from the traditional aseptic fill-finish process, and new technology is needed to accommodate these growing needs.

Additionally there was growing interest in applying IIoT to aseptic processing, as drugmakers look to integrate aseptic equipment with analytical data systems while pursuing their quest for continuous product monitoring.

Agility and flexibility still reign supreme

Shrinking batches sizes combined with the ongoing need to reduce costs means flexibility is a must. Many of the tools designed to help pharma meet these demands — such as single-use technologies, continuous manufacturing and modular approaches to equipment design — were prominently displayed on the show floor. As you will read in this month’s cover story, previously successful facilities are becoming outdated and changes need to be implemented. As INTERPHEX demonstrated, there is hope on the horizon in the form of the industry’s newest technologies, if pharma is willing to adopt them. Additionally, equipment vendors are stepping up and improving the quality and depth of their services, which goes a long way in terms of maintenance and updates to aging equipment.

It appears as though the mindset in pharma and on the tradeshow floor is gradually shifting. Where large, noisy machinery designed to crank out blockbuster drugs at a rapid pace once stood, we are now seeing sleek, compact isolators capable of making small, personalized batches. Despite the fact that INTERPHEX has reached “middle-age,” it is proving that it can still keep up with trends. 

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