IChemE’s COVID-19 Response Team creates new workstreams to help reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

Published:  22 April, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has undeniably brought many aspects of chemical engineering in the healthcare sector sharply into public focus. Recognising the wealth of professional engineering expertise held by members of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) in critical sectors, including pharmaceutical and biochemical engineering, the Institution has identified a number of key workstreams to support the global response.

The IChemE COVID-19 Response Team will focus on specific workstreams, reflecting areas of chemical engineering expertise in manufacture of small molecule and biological medicines as well as extending to cover diagnostics and hospital service requirements including medical gases and personal protective equipment (PPE).

The team’s strategy is to build networks of volunteers in a structured hub that can mobilise assistance to address both current and future technical gaps in the COVID-19 response action plan. By pooling IChemE’s global resources, the team will be able to respond quickly to calls for assistance from any international governmental and/or healthcare organisation and will be able to offer advice and support, independent of commercial interests.

The team will also look to translate high level information from government departments and other medical institutions into technical briefing documents that can be shared with the chemical engineering community to expedite finding engineering solutions to specific problems.

IChemE member, Julia Gordon, who has been selected as the team’s project manager, said:

“As a member-led Institution, it is a key part of our engineers’ professional responsibility to use our skills and expertise for the benefit of society; this has never been more important than today in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. We are aiming to provide technical help in any way we can. It is vital that we act proactively to provide support in this area and respond quickly to rapidly unfolding events.

“The response from volunteers to join the team has been incredible with over 40 volunteers from countries across the world with expertise in pharmaceutical process scale-up, design and manufacturing; project management; facilities build and antibody therapeutics, agreeing to provide their time and expertise. I’d like to thank them all for their service.”

The workstreams identified by the IChemE COVID-19 Response Team for action are as follows:

 Diagnostics: test methodology, manufacturing, and roll out

 Vaccines/Bioprocess/API

 Vaccines/Bioprocess/Drug product including fill finish

 Antibody therapeutics

 Small molecules therapeutics

 Hospital services and medical supplies (HSMS)

 International liaison – global collaboration hub to share learning

 Communications

It is envisaged that each workstream will identify the optimum solution to deliver its product or service including a pathway to scaled-up production as well as supply chain logistics where relevant.

If you or your organisation has a request for engineering support or you are able to volunteer to be part of this project, please contact the IChemE COVID-19 Response Team via covid@icheme.org. The team is most in need of volunteers with experience in therapeutic antibodies, small molecule therapeutics and vaccines/drug product manufacturing experience including fill/finish.

For more information, please visit IChemE’s Coronavirus Information Hub.

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