Scientists in Ireland unveiled a sensor capsule designed to improve the production of biological treatments for chronic diseases.

Producing biopharmaceuticals is a complex procedure, involving living tissues, cells and materials. The production process, known as bioprocessing, requires constant and detailed monitoring to ensure that products develop properly in bioreactors.

The moving wireless sensor developed by Tyndall National Institute and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) is designed to do just that.

As NIBRT explains, existing sensors are fixed in one position and can only monitor material that directly passes their surface. By contrast, the ‘Process Analytical Technology Sensor Capsule’ (PATsule) moves around freely in the bioreactor during production, providing a stream of data to monitor factors that might affect product yield or quality.

According to the developers, their innovation has the potential to revolutionize bioprocess monitoring and control.

“More informed process development will improve the ability to manufacture therapeutic proteins, enhance their quality, increase their speed to market and benefit medical professionals and patients by reducing the cost of therapies,” NIBRT said in a statement.

Dr. Karen Twomey, staff researcher at Tyndall, explained: “The PATsule, a wireless mobile sensing device, will freely move within the bioreactor, continuously monitoring and analyzing the production vessel environment. This information will help biopharmaceutical manufacturers to visualize and control their process, making it uniform. PATsule involves a multi-disciplinary approach of micro- and nano-sensor technology, miniaturized instrumentation, data analytics and wireless communications.”

Dr. Jonathan Bones, NIBRT principal investigator, added: “The PATsule represents a new concept in process monitoring as it enables the measurement of critical process parameters in both time and space, which was not previously possible. We foresee it becoming must-have technology within the industry for all those engaged in process development and commercial manufacturing.”