Super-Boosted Pharma How COVID-19 Pushed The Pharmaceutical Industry with Robotics and Automation

In the past, pharmaceutical production was a time-consuming and costly process. Companies needed to invest heavily in the early stages of molecule discovery and cultivation without a guarantee that the breakthrough will lead to marketable or intended results. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin almost by accident, and even then it took time to ramp up production to meet the demands of a World War II-laden world.

However, recent advancements in robotics and automation have changed the landscape of pharmaceutical production. These technologies have made it possible to produce drugs more quickly and efficiently, and have even allowed for the mass production of certain medications at a much lower cost. As a result, the access barriers for key pharmaceutical products have decreased dramatically, making them more accessible to the general public.

This has, in part, been due to the immediate need for adequate response systems to COVID-19. With such a virulent outbreak threatening to halt the day-to-day happenings worldwide, the pharmaceutical industry needed to step up its efforts to tackle the problem in an efficient and equitable way. One way the industry was able to react the way it did was through the capabilities provided by the advancement of robotics and automation in different functional areas, especially production.

COVID-19 and the Shake-up of Production Processes

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. The virus has disrupted supply chains, causing shortages of key ingredients and finished products from different markets around the world. It has also forced factories to close or reduce production due to employee illness or government-mandated shutdowns. It is expected to continue creating challenges for the industry that are expected to continue in the months and years to come.

The impact of the pandemic on pharmaceutical manufacturing has been especially felt around the world. In China, the original epicentre of the outbreak, factories were forced to close or operate at reduced capacity due to employee illness and government-mandated shutdowns. This led to shortages of key ingredients and finished products, including life-saving drugs like chemotherapy. The situation in China is slowly improving, but the ripple effects are being felt throughout the global supply chain, from labour shortages to shortages in raw materials.

The industry will need to find ways to adapt to the new reality of global supply chain disruptions and changing customer needs. With COVID-19 also presenting a new challenge in finding a suitable treatment alongside their vaccine, pharmaceutical companies need to adapt and adapt fast. They may have found their solution through machinery and artificial intelligence.

Robotics and Automation in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Robotics and automation have had a profound effect on manufacturing across different industries, changing the landscape of how things are made in terms of efficiency and innovation. For the pharmaceutical industry, the amount of time and money that can save by automating their manufacturing process proves to be an impressive draw for most companies to begin adopting the practice. From better handling of end-to-end production processes to even the research and discovery portion of drug manufacturing, robotics and automation stand to transform the pharmaceutical industry to adapt with much more agility to some of the world’s most pressing needs.

The benefits of automation don't stop there. Automation can also help improve quality control and reduce the risk of human error. In addition, automated systems can operate around the clock, which means that production can be increased without the concern for additional staffing costs or shortages due to human circumstances.

With all of these benefits, it's no wonder that pharmaceutical companies are increasingly turning to robotics and automation to help them meet the demands of the global market.

Key Developments in Pharmaceutical Production

Utilization of Artificial Intelligence

One of the biggest effects that robotics can have in pharmaceutical manufacturing is its ability to greatly reduce the time to market for the drugs themselves. Current studies have shown that the traditional methods take at least six to seven years just to get clinical trials underway, with clinical successes dipping as low as 12% in some cases. But robotics and automation have begun to be utilized to create better efficiencies in this process. Pfizer, in their efforts to develop a COVID-19 vaccine faster while complying with regulatory requirements, looked to AI to “accelerate” their drug research and discovery efforts, leading to the development of one of the first COVID-19 treatments in the market, PAXLOVID.

Integration of Manufacturing Robotics

It goes without saying that a key aspect of the pharmaceutical revolution is the integration of manufacturing robotics. The COVID-19 pandemic has had its impacts on pharmaceutical manufacturing and the industry has had to grapple with immense challenges, from securing supplies of raw materials to maintaining production levels.

However, the industry has also demonstrated its resilience in the face of adversity. Pharmaceutical manufacturers have quickly adapted their operations to meet the needs of the pandemic, and they are now playing a vital role in supplying the world with essential medicines. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the pharmaceutical industry, and its role in keeping people healthy and safe while also introducing novel technologies that have the ability to transform how people receive care.

Pharmacy Overhauls

The robotics and automation transformation is something that goes beyond the manufacturing space and touches upon consumer-facing areas as well. Lyell McEwin, a hospital in Australia, has begun using robotic arms to transform its in-hospital pharmacy.

It’s expected that robots in pharmacies can help reduce medicinal errors as well as improve patient wait times for drugs. In fact, different companies such as BD and Bell and Howell have been making significant investments in robotics that allow consumers to easily access their medication and pharmacists to focus more on clinical work.

Key Takeaways

The pharmaceutical space has been transformed for the better with the advent of robotics and automation.

  • COVID-19 has changed the way supply chains operate around the world, and in order to adapt to these changes, the pharmaceutical industry turned towards leveraging robotics and automation.
  • Robotics and AI have been in the pharmaceutical space for some time now, but have recently been utilized by larger companies in an effort to address COVID-19’s many complex issues like speedy access to vaccines and treatments.
  • Specifically, pharmaceutical industries can experience this effectual change through smarter intelligence systems addressing research and drug discovery, better manufacturing processes, and even patient engagement overhauls that make it easier to access drugs.

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Published on 

Dec 13, 2022



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