The Jefferson Institute for Bioprocessing (JIB) in Philadelphia hopes to open a new “digital demonstrator” towards the end of the year. The aim is to demonstrate virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to biomanufacturing professionals.

“The idea is that they can play with them a bit—to see how they can be used as disruptive technologies to benefit biomanufacturing in the future,” says Cameron Bardliving, PhD, director of operations of the pilot plant facility at JIB.

JIB, which opened last year, is the first dedicated research and training institute for biomanufacturing in North America.

According to Bardliving, the digital demonstrator, developed in partnership with Boston Consulting Group, consists of a series of demonstration stations in a cGMP simulated pilot scale manufacturing facility. People enter the facility via a staging site, where they can put on a virtual reality headset to do a virtual tour of the JIB pilot plant.

Later, they can experience some of the technologies in the physical facility, starting with a webcam in the hall. This uses behavioral recognition software to check that technicians are correctly gloved, gowned, and have a hairnet on before they enter the laboratories.

Inside the laboratory is a digital tier board and radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristband station for automatically allocating work to lab technicians. Professionals visiting the facility can also try out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the future that captures technicians’ physical movements, so they can be replicated for quality control.

“Our goal is to get feedback from industry to take these technologies to the next level,” says Bardliving, who explains that they’re using a mix of off-the-shelf products and tailored solutions from other industries. “We want to find out how they can be tailored to the highly regulated and controlled environment of biopharmaceutical manufacturing.”

JIB was developed to provide a skilled workforce for the advanced medical therapeutics industry. Alongside the digital demonstrator, the Institute has an 8,000 square foot cGMP-simulated pilot-scale biomanufacturing facility equipped with the latest technology for end-to-end single-use biomanufacturing. This facility is quickly moving towards continuous processing and advanced automation, says Bardliving, and offers training courses in single-use biomanufacturing for industry professionals.

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