The market for bio-products or bio-based goods has grown sharply over the past few years as consumers embrace foods, fuels, medicines and other products made from renewable biological resources. However, the emerging appetite for bio-products is being held back by bottlenecks in manufacturing, with many processing methods taking far too long and costing too much. A European research project is helping pinpoint the industrial jams, raising hopes that the supply of bio-products can match the soaring demand.
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The project, called INTENSO, identifies the blockages in the industrial processes and finds new solutions to circumvent them with novel technologies for more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective bio-manufacturing.
INTENSO project is based on four technological pillars, each of which is tasked with investigating a promising novel process. The results should lead to better and more affordable products. A streamlined production process will enable manufacturers to offer their goods at lower prices while still generating the necessary profit to expand and firmly establish themselves on the market.
INTENSO project team focused initially on bio-pharmaceuticals used to treat multiple chronic or life-threatening conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes or viral infections like chronic Hepatitis B.
“The availability of better and more cost-effective processes will enable a plethora of new products to reach maturity,” says INTENSO’s project coordinator Marcelo Fernández Lahore, who is also a Professor of Biochemical Engineering at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. “At the same time, an increase in cost-effectiveness will help non-pharmaceutical products become more competitive on the market, for example in the food additive industry,” he adds.
While upstream manufacturing of bio-products is well developed using methods like fermentation and cell culturing, downstream processes are lagging. This portion, which includes product recovery and purification, can go up to 80% of the total cost involved in the production process. “The potential for savings is immense,” says Fernández Lahore.
The challenge for the bio-pharmaceuticals sector is tough, as product quality has to be high but the price of the final product needs to be comparable to that of conventional medicine. Fernández Lahore says INTENSO project is not just about improving the effectiveness of new methods, but striving to lead to a sustainable approach, factoring in risk management derived from economic, environmental, and social developments, as well as including government policies and legal constraints.
The novel processes developed by the INTENSO team are also expected to enable the next generation of bio-products to be efficiently purified. These are mostly products that cannot be processed using the current available methods. This not only means that a new generation of therapeutics are expected to reach the market, but also that the current bio-medicines could become more affordable, leading to a more widespread use. “Being able to afford cutting edge medical compounds will greatly increase the quality of life, making an impression on consumers all over Europe and beyond,” Fernández Lahore concludes.