` The Importance of Flow Control in Vaccine Production
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The Importance of Flow Control in Vaccine Production

Posted: 10/28/2022
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The cadence of vaccine production has arguably never been more in the spotlight. Over the last few years, a global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak sparked public outcries for vaccines quicker than manufacturers were initially able to develop, produce and distribute them.

And while COVID-19 has now entered an endemic stage in most regions of the world, it likely won’t be the last disease that affects the global population. Just this past spring, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak as a “public-health emergency of international concern.”

In turn, this will continue to place a greater emphasis on getting future vaccines to market in a much quicker timeframe, with scalability representing a focal point.

Most of the manufacturing processes used to create today’s vaccines rely on bioreactors, which create a controlled environment for the fast, efficient production of the needed microorganisms.

The gases that go into these bioreactors and “culture” the vaccines are controlled by flow meters. In fact, control is an essential component of the processes as it is vital in facilitating optimal growth of the vaccine.

The Alicat BIOC-Series Mass Flow Controller, available at Alpha Controls & Instrumentation, represents a versatile solution for manufacturers looking for reliable and scalable mass flow control in bioreactors used to produce pharmaceuticals such as vaccines.

Preconfigured for bioprocessing, the Alicat BIOC-Series provides manufacturers with industry-best scalability, compatibility, flexibility and reliability.

Of note, its typical sensor response time is one of the fastest available today. It accomplishes this by using differential pressure instead of bonded strain gage or thermal mass flow. This is done by using a pressure sensor, or absolute reference pressure, followed by a second sensor in the flow path that, in combination with the unique Alicat design, provides a laminar flow to create the differential.

A benefit to doing it this way is the Alicat controller achieves volumetric flow. When combined with also being able to measure temperature, and combined with the aid of some constants, the unit can more accurately calculate the mass flow of the gas – in addition to achieving faster response and larger turn-downs.  

And by measuring the flow, the Alicat BIOC-Series can signal the pressure controller to maintain pressure within the bioreactor and optimize vaccine growth.

In addition, the tremendous turn-down ratio means manufacturers can place Alicat’s flow meter into specific applications with a wider range, but still have plenty of accuracy throughout the range. In other words, this scalability allows manufacturers to dial the flow meter to different ranges while still maintaining an accuracy that’s within ±0.5% of reading or ±0.1% of full scale.

Meanwhile, the flexibility of Alicat’s BIOC-Series provides manufacturers with fewer controllers and better control. That means being able to switch between air, O₂, CO₂, N₂ and thousands of additional gases without requiring recalibration – and with repeatable control to 0.01% of full scale.

The Alicat flow meter is highly compatible with different manufacturing processes. Its industry-leading reliability and communication protocols provide easy integration into various systems that include Modbus, Profibus and Ethernet.

The unit can also accommodate all standard flow rates, include low flow from 1-5 SCCM, mid-flow from 10 -20 SLPM and high-flow from 20-500 SLPM.

It is similarly compatible with pre-existing data systems, ensuring data integrity and facilitating the progression through process development stages.

Access the brochure on the Alicat BIOC-Series Mass Flow Controller, as well as a high-flow spec sheet.

For additional information, contact us to learn more about the Alicat BIOC-Series Mass Flow Controller.