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How the MAVEN Is Helping Drive Biopharma 4.0

Automating and simplifying the process development of biopharmaceuticals brings us closer to more personalized medicine

Ian Black, MSComm, MSc

Ian Black is the assistant editor for LabX. Before joining the team, he obtained a masters in science communication from Laurentian University and an MSc in biology from Brock University....

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Developing therapeutics quickly and efficiently is critical in the biopharma industry especially when trying to create precision treatments, which are tailored to specific patients. To help address certain bottlenecks in the process development stage, 908 Devices has released the MAVEN, a glucose and lactate monitor that not only measures the reactions occurring in bioreactors in real time but does so using a diffusion membrane that holds no volume. This means that biopharma companies can assess the depletion of the core food stock and learn a lot about the metabolism of the cells in the bioreactor.

Dedicated to reimagining how mass spectrometry is done in the lab, 908 Devices has built a brand around building simple instruments to accelerate workflows and reduce costs in the biopharma, life science, and forensics fields. 

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With recent advances in artificial intelligence and automation in numerous sectors, we are seeing what could be considered a new industrial revolution. Often referred to as Industry 4.0, this focus on automation and digital technology has also begun to make its way into the biopharma and pharmaceutical industries, creating Biopharma 4.0. To accelerate the development of therapeutics is no small task, however, and necessitates the invention of new technologies and devices, such as the MAVEN.

In the early stages of the biopharmaceutical process, once a possible therapeutic candidate has been identified, researchers move on to the process development stage. Here biopharma specialists begin figuring out how to manufacture the treatment at a production scale. To that end researchers will use numerous small bioreactors to test different conditions. “They're generally trying to say what experimental conditions and what type of feeding and what type of cell culture media gives us the best overall sort of product in terms of quality and quantity,” says Christopher Brown, PhD, and CTO of 908 Devices. 

The process development stage is critical, but these bioreactors present their own limitations that can hinder progress towards Biopharma 4.0. One major obstacle is that researchers can typically only measure the product at the end of the process. The inability to measure the reactions as they happen in real time means a lot valuable information that would speed up the process is lost. Brown likens it to trying to drive a car without any feedback regarding the environment around you. Another point of concern is the amount of volume that must be removed from the bioreactor to take any measurements. “There's not much there to begin with, and the customers don't want to have all these bioreactors moving gallons of fluid around to a central analyzer,” explains Brown. 

It is the ability to address these very issues that makes the MAVEN such a useful tool in biopharma. The hope is that products like the MAVEN will expedite the process of bringing therapeutics to the patient and help bring about better access to personalized medicine.