No user image
Nicola Ambler Jun 01
Phacilitate Automation SIG 2018

How do you Solve a Problem Like Cell Therapy Manufacturing?

The Automation SIG is a platform to debate, collaborate and work towards genuine solutions for the new paradigm of manufacturing needed to ensure commercial viability of advanced therapies.


This is an important meeting, we are the architects of the evolution of manufacturing…” Rod Rietze’s opening gambit of the keynote at this week’s Automation SIG was empowering and poignant.


Ohad Karnieli’s keynote was described as a “call to arms” by the chair, Stephen Ward.


The Crystal Maze (if you don’t know it, ask a Brit) was re-enacted.


We were joined at The Grove by the England football team (thankfully, not as rapporteurs!)

It was no ordinary event...


Phacilitate Automation SIG 2018 Crystal Maze


In addition to all of this excitement, two hugely important and thought-provoking concepts were discussed in the opening keynotes, setting the bar for the focus groups during the remainder of the SIG.


Firstly, we heard Rod’s concept of cell therapy manufacturing evolution. From 1.0 (as we know it) to 2.0 (towards industrialisation and 3.0 (thinking outside the box/inside the clinic) and whether we actually want to work towards the 3.0 model in the first place. Is decentralised or in-hospital manufacturing the right solution? One thing that was irrefutable was his statement that none of us has all of the answers or all of the dollars to get anywhere quickly. It’s going to take continuous improvement and continuous collaboration. I couldn’t agree more, after all, we’re all about the power of partnerships.


Ohad’s final, rousing keynote address echoed Rod’s sentiment of the power and necessity of partnerships. His ‘teenager theory’ was also widely accepted by the audience, which is that the process is NOT the product.


The key distinction is that the process influences the product but your product is the product. It’s crucial to really know your product if any process development, reproducibility or cost per patient improvements are to be realised.


if Watts Humphrey’s famous quote…

Watts Humphrey Innovation at Phacilitate Automation SIG

… is our innovation motivation, what are our innovation killers?


  • Blindness, ignorance and lack of knowledge
  • Fear of change and job security
  • Financial pressure
  • Ignoring reality (think Kodak and Blockbuster)


Our industry's state of mind has to be different, we’re saving lives not renting films; we cannot lose to these innovation killers!


So, we need open discussion, to think differently, be provocative and innovate.



The SIG is a means for all of this but it doesn’t end as we all leave the five-star retreat.  There will be follow up reports, position papers and discussions. Stay up to date with the outcomes of the meeting through Phacilitate:Exchange.