Time to market, cost effectiveness, and flexibility are key issues in today's biopharmaceutical market. Bioprocessing plants based on fully disposable, presterilized, and prevalidated components appear as an attractive alternative to conventional stainless steel plants, potentially allowing for shorter implementation times, smaller initial investments, and increased flexibility.
To evaluate the economic case of such an alternative it was necessary to develop an appropriate costing model which allows an economic comparison between conventional and disposables-based engineering to be made. The production of an antibody fragment from an E. coli fermentation was used to provide a case study for both routes. The conventional bioprocessing option was costed through available models, which were then modified to account for the intrinsic differences observed in a disposables-based option. The outcome of the analysis indicates that the capital investment required for a disposables-based option is substantially reduced at less than 60% of that for a conventional option. The disposables-based running costs were evaluated as being 70% higher than those of the conventional equivalent. Despite this higher value, the net present value (NPV) of the disposables-based plant is positive and within 25% of that for the conventional plant.
Sensitivity analysis performed on key variables indicated the robustness of the economic analysis presented. In particular a 9-month reduction in time to market arising from the adoption of a disposables-based approach, results in a NPV which is identical to that of the conventional option. Finally, the effect of any possible loss in yield resulting from the use of disposables was also examined. This had only a limited impact on the NPV: for example, a 50% lower yield in the disposable chromatography step results in a 10% reduction of the disposable NPV. The results provide the necessary framework for the economic comparison of disposables and conventional bioprocessing technologies. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Biotechnol Bioeng 75: 143–153, 2001.