Digital twins and VR learning facilitate global deployment of Covid-19 vaccine

News / 02.12.2020

The consortium led by the Jenner Institute at Oxford University used digital twin technologies to design the 3D replica of the vaccine production line and virtual learning experiences to train operators worldwide.

  • Pall Biotech collaborated with Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult using HakoBio to easily create the 3D digital twin of the manufacturing process. 
  • Virtual learning experiences were created directly from the digital twin, to immerse operators in the future environment, increasing the process robustness and reducing human error. 
  • The technologies allowed the creation of a training program in under 3 months and the simplification of the learning process and technology transfer. 

Deploying a production process on a large scale while maintaining its robustness and reducing operator training time to a minimum, are one of the major challenges in the race to produce Covid-19 vaccines. To address these challenges, biopharmaceutical companies need to transform their approach toward a user-centered one and empower operators with the knowledge and know-how to begin production more rapidly and more efficiently. 

In the framework of the Covid-19 vaccine development & production, Pall Biotech and Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult needed new ways to rapidly deploy the process design and train operators all over the globe. The creation of the production process digital twin combined with virtual reality for training purposes represented an efficient solution. 

To achieve that, Pall and CGT Catapult used HakoBio, a web-based 3D platform, developed by OUAT!, allowing the easy creation and exploitation of factory digital twins to simulate production processes across the entire factory life cycle – from planning, to learning experiences and asset management.

The first step towards an efficient tech transfer 

Using HakoBio’s intuitive visual interface and database of more than 1000 pieces of equipment, the technology transfer began with the creation of the production process 3D digital twin by Pall Biotech. A virtual tour was also created, directly from the digital twin, allowing operators to discover the process by immersing themselves in their future environment and accessing knowledge and information related to equipment. 

“The job doesn’t end when our products arrive at the end-user, and we know that sharing knowledge using the best possible platform helps to accelerate the safe implementation of technology into a real process” said Helene Pora, Vice President Technical Communications and Regulatory Strategy, “Training is a regulatory expectation but can be time intensive, especially when on-system time is limited, so we continue to invest in the creation of digital visualization and training tools to empower rapid process development and knowledge transfer, and are proud of the role of these platforms in this important project”.

Getting your “virtual” hands on the process 

After visiting the production zones and familiarizing themselves with the areas, operators are trained on production activities and equipment manipulation. Using the digital twin in HakoBio, the two consortium partners were able to autonomously create virtual reality training programs in under three months, exploitable on the web or using a virtual reality headset. 

By immersing operators in a close-to-reality version of the future environment, they can virtually manipulate the equipment and follow predefined scenarios adapted to their level of expertise. The approach is therefore transformed to a user-centered one, where the user is at the center of the learning path, from discovering the process to mastering operational procedures, all before entering the actual production area.

"Our focus is to support front line workers by providing intuitive solutions that ensure their serenity and facilitate the international deployment of the vaccine" said Nicolas Vertommen, General Manager of OUAT! "With HakoBio's digital twin and virtual reality technologies, we accelerate the tech transfer and transform the learning path to a user-centric approach, enabling operators to master operating procedures prior to entering the production area."

What’s Next? 

Initiatives like this one prove that the industry is adapting to the digitalization trend. Companies are aware of the advantages of digital technologies in achieving what has never been done in terms of speed and efficiency, and above all supporting humans in achieving their operational excellence. 

Matthew Durdy, CEO at Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult said: “The Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network is set to offer state-of-the art training resources from across the industry. In developing this innovative aspect to the Online Training Platform with OUAT!, it has been possible to harness virtual reality and diversify the training resources in line with technological development, overall offering an intuitive and engaging experience to trainees. We look forward to the industry upskilling a new wave of talent through this technology.”  

For the next steps of the Covid-19 vaccine production, the digital twin, knowledge base and virtual learning experiences will be transferred to the production facilities of the consortium. These digital technologies will help accelerate the tech transfer and habilitate the front-line workers for a safe and efficient implementation of the process. 

A video of the learning experience is available HERE.