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GE teams with Refine Technologies on bioprocessing integration

By Gareth Macdonald , 10-Apr-2012
Last updated on 10-Apr-2012 at 15:05 GMT

A new filtration cartridge supply deal between GE Healthcare and Refine Technologies is a further indication of Biopharma’s desire for greater connectivity between processing techs.

Under the agreement – financial terms of which were not disclosed – GE will supply its range of hollow fiber filtration cartridges to Refine, which will distribute them in combination with its range of Alternating Tangential Flow (ATF) cell retention devices.

Catarina Flyborg, bioprocess product Marketing Leader at GE said the agreement is a “platform for future collaboration, a crucial step in helping both companies meet the new and emerging demands of the rapidly-changing biomanufacturing market.”

Flyborg cited the US Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) support for the implementation of continuous processing in the biomanufacturing sector  – which relies on effective connectivity between different manufacturing platforms – as an area of focus for the collaboration.

This was echoed by a GE Spokesman told in-Pharmatechnmologist.com that while the initial focus will be on supply, the plan in time is to develop new technologies.

In the long term, we will work together to develop hollow fiber technology which keeps pace with the fast growing number of applications where ATF is shown to have performance advantages over traditional cross flow filtration technology. In addition, our ReadyToProcess hollow fiber devices, which are pre-conditioned and pre-sterilized for plug and play manufacturing, may offer advantages for future designs of ATF technology.

He also explained that GE will provide exclusive part numbers to Refine for use with the ATF systems that will only be available via Refine and its distribution network.

"However," he continued "GE Healthcare continues to manufacture a broad range of hollow fiber modules, including those available through Refine, which can be used in filtration systems from other manufacturers."

Biopharma deals

The agreement with Refine fits with GE’s recent efforts to build its biomanufacturing business. In September the firm pledged to invest $1bn to develop new biomanufacturing techs, in December it partnered with M+W on a plant development service and – just last month – it announced plans to acquire Xcellerex .

GE also signed a patent deal with Sartorious Stedium Biotech (SSB) – granting the French manufacturing systems developer rights to aseptic transfer and industrial bioprocessing platforms it licensed from SciLog in exchange for intellectual property (IP) for process monitoring technologies licensed by SSB from Fluorometrix.

Since then SSB has partnered with Refine in an agreement which– like the new GE accord – is focused on Refine's ATF systems and specifically on how the cell retention devices can be optimally connected to single-use bioreactors.

GE did not say how many cartridges it expects to sell through the Refine deal when contacted by in-pharmatechnologist.com. However, comments by SSB’s Thorsten Adams when his firm partnered with Refine suggest GE's filters could soon be being used by a significant proportion of biomanufacturers.

At the time Adams told inpharmatechnologist.com that: “Refine’s ATF [Alternating tangential flow] system is used by virtually every biopharmaceutical company - at both the developmental stage and during production - to achieve higher cell densities and product titres.

However, because the technologies [retention and bioreactor] are made by different companies connecting them in the most effective way can be an expensive, time consuming and tedious process.

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