So, just how do you move from a laboratory setting that produces a little bit of your biological product, to a manufacturing plant that cranks out tonnes of it?
Setting aside the capital requirements side of the equation, there’s issues around compliance and regulation, the standard of manufacturing and the straight out scaling of a technology.
“What’s fine at producing one litre, may be completely different at the 1000 litre level,” says NZBIO acting chief executive, Peter Bradley.
“At the same time in a number of cases, people don’t know what they don’t know, they don’t know who they don’t know.”
It is part of the reason the national biotechnology organisation has organised a contract scaling up workshop for bio-based industries in Auckland on February 24 (see here).
Bradley says the workshop will provide information and knowledge around scaling up issues. Practitioners will show what services are available as well as “war stories; what happened for them, how they went about things.”
But, and arguably more important, there will also be the opportunity to meet, sit and talk.
“Often people are so focused on the business and getting things done, there’s not the opportunity to meet with like-minded people, swap stories, talk about the issues,” says Bradley. “Sometimes they’re so intent on making a product, they’re not aware of some regulations that may stymie their efforts.”
The scaling-up workshop grew out of a biological-testing workshop held last year, essentially naturally evolving to the next step – scaling up.
One of the main things Bradley wants to see as a result of the workshop are “conversations”, which, given the spread of participants from Invercargill to Whangarei shouldn’t be too difficult.
The workshop’s taking a middle ground, especially considering the enormous number product presentation modes.
“Dealing with milk powder’s different to a tableting plant, which in turn is different to a soft gel or a cream,” says Bradley.
“Finding the right expertise is often a challenge in our country.”
Well, if there’s ever going to be a concentration of smarts around the whole area, Auckland at the end of February would be a great place to be.