IChemE volunteers identify areas of focus to help fight pandemic

Article by Adam Duckett

ICHEME’S volunteer Covid-19 Response Team has divided into distinct workstreams, including on diagnostics and vaccines, as it seeks to help overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 40 IChemE volunteers formed a dedicated Covid-19 Response Team in early April, offering to provide their time and expertise. It includes experts in pharmaceutical process scaleup, design, manufacture, and project management. The team’s work includes identifying bottlenecks that prevent a more efficient response to the pandemic, and explaining to authorities how chemical engineers can help.

The workstreams are focussing on:

  • diagnostics: test methodology, manufacturing, and roll out;
  • vaccines/bioprocess/API;
  • vaccines/bioprocess/drug product including fill finish;
  • antibody therapeutics;
  • small molecules therapeutics;
  • hospital services and medical supplies (HSMS);
  • international liaison – global collaboration hub to share learning; and

It is expected that each of the technical workstreams will identify the optimum solution to deliver its product or service including a pathway to scaled-up production as well as supply-chain logistics where relevant.

The team’s strategy is to build networks of volunteers in a structured hub that can mobilise assistance to address both current and future technical gaps. By pooling IChemE’s global resources, the team seeks to respond quickly to calls for assistance from any governmental and/or healthcare organisation and offer advice and support, independent of commercial interests.

The team will also look to translate high-level information from government departments and other medical institutions into technical briefing documents that can be shared with the chemical engineering community to speed up the search for engineering solutions to specific problems.

IChemE member Julia Gordon, who has been selected as the team’s project manager, said: “As a member-led Institution, it is a key part of our engineers’ professional responsibility to use our skills and expertise for the benefit of society; this has never been more important than today in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. We are aiming to provide technical help in any way we can. It is vital that we act proactively to provide support in this area and respond quickly to rapidly unfolding events.”

IChemE is asking that organisations requesting engineering support or those volunteering to join the response team should email: covid@icheme.org

It adds that the team is most in need of volunteers with experience in therapeutic antibodies, small molecule therapeutics and vaccines/drug product manufacturing experience including fill/finish.

IChemE has also launched a dedicated coronavirus information hub for those who want more information on the Institution’s response and to find activities to support CPD.

Last week, Adam Hawthorne, a member of IChemE’s Covid-19 Response Team, raised concerns about a shortfall in the UK’s vaccine manufacturing capacity, and discussed how chemical engineers can help overcome the challenges.

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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