About the project
Vaccine and drug manufacturing is a key part of the healthcare supply chain and currently the pharmaceutical industry across the world is extremely stretched to meet this need.
Pharmaceutical companies have been busy researching new vaccines for COVID-19. Yet, there has also been a need to increase volume production of vaccines, for efficient large-scale manufacturing in the event of future pandemics.
New ways of working
Social distancing and quarantine measures were in force at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and may still remain in place in many vaccine and drug manufacturing environments.
This means only a limited workforce can be present, wearing full personal protective equipment at any one time. Therefore, reducing the efficiency of vaccine and drug manufacturing. Technologies that can aid new ways of working and allow adaptable, efficient scale-up of manufacturing are key to the healthcare supply chain.
Shadow Robot, a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), had previously developed the Haptic Telerobot which consists of the Shadow Hand combined with tactile fingertip sensors. The Haptic Telerobot is controlled via a haptic glove, which can be relayed from over 5,000 miles away.
Through the ‘UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) open funding opportunity for ideas that addressed COVID-19’, Shadow Robot was awarded £586,026.
The award involved a collaboration with the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, who produced the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The award allowed Shadow Robot to further develop the Haptic Telerobot technology for use in isolator laboratories commonly used in manufacturing of drugs and vaccines.
Through the award, the Haptic Telerobot technology has been developed to carry out intricate laboratory skills used in manufacturing of vaccines and drugs such as:
- handling petri dishes, vials and zip-lock bags
Shadow Robot has also developed the technology to be used within isolators, where vaccines and drugs are manufactured in a sterile manner. Use of the Haptic Telerobot in this environment provides several benefits:
- allowing critical workers to perform tasks at a safe distance, reducing the risk of disease spreading amongst staff
- reducing the risk of contamination of vaccines and drugs by maintaining a sterile environment within isolators
Impact of the project
Working with Pfizer on the project has allowed Shadow Robot to enter a new market, the pharmaceutical industry. Shadow Robot will now further develop the intricate skills needed for the Haptic Telerobot to be incorporated into the manufacturing of vaccines and drugs.
Use of the Haptic Telerobot in pharmaceutical manufacturing will:
- improve efficiency of manufacturing of drugs and vaccines
- contribute to future pandemic preparedness
Shadow Robot has patented the technological developments of the Haptic Telerobot and has incorporated these into the next product release scheduled for late 2022.
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Top image: Credit: Shadow Robot