Collaboration within the Catapult Network enables best use of equipment and rapid project set-up

With the pressing need to develop millions of COVID-19 vaccines, the UK government’s Vaccines Taskforce (VTF), which sits within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), was established to expedite and coordinate efforts to ensure the UK population has access to a clinically safe and effective vaccine. The VTF’s national response includes establishing facilities that would drive forward vaccine manufacturing while bringing together and promoting collaboration between government, academia and industry.

As a part of the VTF’s coordinated response, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult) was granted £127m by BEIS to establish a site in Braintree, Essex, leveraging proven expertise from setting up and running a large-scale manufacturing facility in Stevenage. While the Braintree facility has been given the initial remit of supporting the national COVID-19 response, beyond the pandemic the focus will shift to advanced therapies manufacturing innovation, in line with CGT Catapult’s vision to support UK industry growth.

The Braintree facility was selected as it already had some of the core capabilities needed to produce vaccines, including its expert workforce and specialised manufacturing space. While some of the technology in place would be applicable for producing human vaccines, a proportion of the equipment would have to be removed.

Leveraging the Catapult Network

Shortly after the Braintree site was acquired, it was identified that some state-of-the-art equipment scheduled for removal could be utilised for a new initiative at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), an independent organisation that translates research into successfully marketed products and a founding member of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. By identifying how the equipment could be repurposed through the strong connections in the Catapult Network, CGT Catapult and CPI were able to embark on an equipment transfer that enabled these assets to be retained and rapidly deployed for industry, adding value and minimizing waste.

Around £1.8m-worth of equipment used for vaccine manufacturing in Braintree could be used by CPI to advance their Novel Food Innovation Centre. Repurposing the equipment could create fermentation processes at scale, enabling consumer trials and developing recipes. By transferring this available equipment to CPI, CGT Catapult could progress in repurposing the Braintree facility, while supporting the acceleration of an industrial innovation project in an expanding industry within the North East of the UK.

Repurposing existing technology to stimulate innovation

The equipment, which includes fermenters and bioreactors, was transferred from CGT Catapult to CPI between December 2020 and March 2021 and is now being used to establish a Novel Food, Feed and Nutraceuticals Innovation Centre of Excellence, which was catalysed by £4m in funding from the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority Cabinet. The centre aims to be the go-to place for process development and scaling up of Novel Foods, Feed and nutraceuticals by providing exemplar service, samples and collaboration to recognised Food Safety and Quality Standards. They also aim to provide connectivity within the innovation supply chain, linking partners and collaborators within a global network and to integrate a breadth of technologies from ingredient production, through formulation, to packing solutions to deliver a new consumer experience.

Outcomes

By leveraging connections across the network, the cooperation of two Catapults has accelerated industry access to cutting edge facilities across the UK, as well as being a sustainable choice in repurposing £1.8m-worth of equipment. When the equipment transferred from CGT Catapult is combined with CPI’s new Precision Fermentation capability, this will create a state-of-the-art Novel Food Innovation Capability within the UK that strengthens the nation’s leading role in supporting the new food revolution. This is a key example of how the Catapult network has worked together to the advantage of industry across the UK.

Further notes

CGT Catapult transferred the following equipment to CPI:

  • Homogeniser
  • 1,200L BioFlo Fermenter
  • 400L BioFlo Fermenter
  • Centrifuge BTPx710
  • Ultra-Flow 110 Portable CIP System
  • Pure Steam Generator
  • 125L BioFlo Bioreactor
  • Gantry Access platform
  • A-Frame access unit for centrifuge
  • Bioreactor control systems

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