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The performances of the batch and continuous configurations were evaluated in terms of processing time and vial-to-vial variability


Academic year: 2021

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Roberto Pisano, Politecnico di Torino, Torino (Italy) E-mail: roberto.pisano@polito.it

Luigi C. Capozzi, Politecnico di Torino, Torino (Italy)

Bernhardt Trout, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (USA) Key Words: Biopharmaceuticals, Continuous manufacturing, Freeze-Drying/Lyophilization

In response to the current trend in the pharmaceutical industry, a new concept for the lyophilization of pharmaceuticals in unit-doses is presented: the continuous freeze-drying/lyophilisation of suspended vials. This configuration makes it possible to set up a continuous lyophilization process that produces a final product with similar characteristics to those traditionally obtained by means of the batch process, but which avoids the drawbacks of conventional, batch freeze-drying.

The continuous flow of vials is achieved by suspending them over a moving track. The vials move through chambers which have different pressure and temperature conditions and are separated by a sluice-gate system. The feasibility and advantages of this new concept are presented in this work.

In order to obtain a quantitative estimation of the advantages of the proposed continuous strategy, with respect to the batch one, a functional version of the continuous plant has been set up, adapting a batch freeze-dryer. This plant allowed us to simulate the same heat and mass transfer conditions to which vials would be exposed in a continuous freeze-dryer. The performances of the batch and continuous configurations were evaluated in terms of processing time and vial-to-vial variability.

Continuous lyophilization has been found to improve heat transfer uniformity, and a dramatic reduction in the process time (up to 5 times) has been observed. This last result makes it possible to lower the production costs by 50-70%. As far as the structure of lyophilized products is concerned, this technology improves vial-to-vial and intra-vial homogeneity. Overall, this technology results in higher productivities and yields of improved product quality. Additionally, equipment size is greatly reduced (up to 10-15 times) compared to batch lyophilization for the same mass per time throughput.

The obtained results have demonstrated the feasibility of our concept as a valid alternative to conventional batch lyophilisation, which may open up new perspectives and opportunities to completely re-think the production of parenteral products and make freeze-drying more efficient and versatile.


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