Pfizer to invest £10 million at its site in Sandwich, Kent

Monday 26 April 2021, 10:05 AM

3 Minute Read

Pfizer in investing £10 million in advance manufacturing technology at its Sandwich site in Kent that will considerably speed up the development of new breakthrough medicines.

Around 85 per cent of the American-owned firm’s small molecule products pass through the Kent site and the team’s work helps millions of patients globally.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to create new vaccines and medicines at pace and scale. Chief among these is how to scale up production as new treatments are progressed through the clinical trial process and on to commercial supplies.  The ability to mass produce a high-quality new medicine and get it to the patients who need it is what turns theory into reality.

As part of a £10 million investment, a new Portable Continuous Manufacturing Module (PCMM)  will help improve the speed at which tablets can be produced for Pfizer clinical trials around the world.  Using a traditional manufacturing process,  the firm would typically start by producing batches of a few thousand tablets at a time. But, as clinical trials progress, more supplies are required. With the PCMM can be run for an hour to make a few thousand tablets, many hours for hundreds of thousands – or just keep going if millions of tablets are required for ready-for-market volumes.

This streamlined process will help potential medicines progress through clinical trials faster, ultimately bringing life-changing treatments to patients sooner.

Julian Thompson, Vice president, Global Head Regulatory Operations and Sandwich Site Head at Pfizer, said:

“Partnerships are critical to unlocking medical breakthroughs – whether treatments for patients in urgent need, preventative vaccines, or to build our understanding of diseases so we can prepare for the future. That’s true for the fight against COVID-19 – where we are immensely proud of our collaboration with BioNTech. And it is equally true for other treatments”.

It’s in that spirit that Pfizer recently joined the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre project. A collaboration between the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), the University of Strathclyde and industry partners GSK and AstraZeneca, with funding provided by Scottish Enterprise and UK Research and Innovation, the Centre sets “grand challenges” aimed at advancing new technology and patient outcomes in the pharmaceutical industry.

The big idea is to speed up the manufacture of medicines. And that’s where the predictive science and digital “twin” will help us. Working on both physical and virtual production side by side improves efficiency by cutting down the amount of  materials needed and time it takes to develop each formulae. Eventually, this could enable Pfizer and other companies to develop these formulae more quickly and cheaply – with massive benefit to patients. In fact, Pfizer estimates that 70% of our small molecule, solid oral dose medicines will be manufactured on PCMM by 2029.

COVID-19 has emphasised how essential it is to be able to scale up new treatments at pace. Shortening treatment manufacturing processes and reducing process variability are key factors in enabling clinical trials to progress at pace and could drastically speed up the delivery of life-changing treatments to patients around the world.

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