Potential Threats That Could Affect Pharma Manufacturing

Ben Hargreaves recently discussed in his article, Five Technologies That Could Disrupt Pharma Manufacturing, some technologies that panelists at Pharma Integrates reviewed that could potentially affect the pharma industry. The panelists gave their perspective of what the industry could face over the coming years. The technologies were:

  • 3D Printing

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence)

  • Digitisation

  • Continuous Manufacturing

  • Automation


Hargreaves quotes the panelists regarding each of the listed technologies above. When it comes to 3D printing, the technology is already in practice. The technology has already gained traction among those who seek custom sized tablets. Brian Henry, the VP of drug product design at Pfizer understands its an application that can easily be adopted. His hesitation is the question why? “What’s the purpose and what are we making better? Having a pharmacy printer sat in a local pharmacy printing medicine is a long way off, i think”

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change healthcare as we know it. Nick Lynch, CTO of Pistoia Alliance, shared his hesitation with the adaptation of AI into the healthcare system. “Human beings are amazing, with what we can do with our brain  – to expect something to be artificial and replace that in the short-term, or even in the certain aspects of our lives, is a little bit expectant.” He goes on to say “I think we have to plan that such changes will be far more incremental. Science has long had a pedigree of using statistics and machine learning and that’s early growth of what is now badged as ‘AI’ – but we have a long way to go. We have to think of this as a journey and think of what will enhance AI development, which really is the data and our skills to be skeptical of its role. In a way, the hype couldn’t get any bigger – if you add ‘.ai’ to the domain of your company, you immediately add 10 times the value to your company.”

Digitisation is starting to have an impact on the pharma manufacturing sector as well. Mike Houghton, director of process industry and drives at Siemens, stresses the importance of adopting digital processes and quickly. He states that  “The pharmaceutical arena is just a bit too conservative and needs to be a bit bolder in adopting digital twin-type technology – lots of other industries use it and it does have a material impact on the business.”

Continuous manufacturing needs to be discussed when there are talks on the future of manufacturing.  Henry discusses how continuous manufacturing is here and that it’s not something that looms on the horizon.

Automation was discussed by Houghton, who again compared the subject matter with other industries, drawing a comparison that if pharma manufacturing is to keep being innovative, it needs to take notes. Pharma Manufacturers need to work harder to embrace automation.  

To read more in depth, visit the article here.