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Trends in Biotechnology

Build a Sustainable Vaccines Industry with Synthetic Biology

Richard I.Kitney1, Jennifer Bell2, Jim Philp3

Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College, London, UK.


The vaccines industry has not changed appreciably in decades regarding technology, and has struggled to remain viable, with large companies withdrawing from production. Meanwhile, there has been no let-up in outbreaks of viral disease, at a time when the biopharmaceuticals industry is discussing downsizing. The distributed manufacturing model aligns well with this, and the advent of synthetic biology promises much in terms of vaccine design. Biofoundries separate design from manufacturing, a hallmark of modern engineering. Once designed in a biofoundry, digital code can be transferred to a small-scale manufacturing facility close to the point of care, rather than physically transferring cold-chain-dependent vaccine. Thus, biofoundries and distributed manufacturing have the potential to open up a new era of biomanufacturing, one based on digital biology and information systems. This seems a better model for tackling future outbreaks and pandemics.

Keywords: vaccines, synthetic biology, distributed manufacturing, biofoundry, point of care.

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