Janssen gets Rutgers' help in move to continuous manufacturing

In a virtuous cycle, Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) is kicking in some more funding for continuous manufacturing research by Rutgers University, whose engineers are helping J&J's Janssen unit transition some products to the new technology at a plant in Puerto Rico.

The $6 million grant from Janssen will be used by the Rutgers Engineering Research Center for Structured Organic Particulate Systems (C-SOPS) to do research over the next several years. The center, part of the Rutgers University School of Engineering, is helping Janssen transition several products to continuous manufacturing at a specially designed manufacturing line at a Janssen facility in Puerto Rico.

"Our collaboration with the Rutgers Engineering School has been very productive in helping us to prepare for the future in delivering the highest quality medicines in the most efficient way," Mauricio Futran, vice president, advanced technology, Janssen Manufacturing & Technical Operations, said in a statement Monday. The two have been working together for 5 years.

Rutgers engineers have erected what the university says is one of the first full production-scale continuous direct compression solid oral dosage manufacturing facilities at the engineering school campus in Piscataway, NJ. They say it not only is the model that J&J is using for its line in Puerto Rico but also is being used as a model by other drugmakers. The school has expanded it to include wet and dry granulated products and says it can accommodate tests of multiple production routes to select the best process.

A growing number of companies are trying continuous manufacturing, hoping to move away from the decades-old processes and into a new realm in which some drugs can be manufactured without using the time-consuming, chemical-heavy batch processes. The plants can be smaller, costing tens of millions of dollars less than traditional batch processing plants to build, and then are expected to cost as much as 30% less to operate. Their smaller size also makes them ideal to be built closer to markets.

Besides the work that J&J is doing in Puerto Rico, Vertex Pharmaceuticals ($VRTX) said this year it was building a $30 million, 4,000-square-foot continuous manufacturing facility in Boston in anticipation that it will get approval for a new cystic fibrosis drug. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Novartis ($NVS) are also incorporating the processes into their manufacturing operations. But the transition is expected to be slow because the industry already has so much invested in batch processing.

- here's the announcement