Filter Waste Reduction

RTP Adapts Cell Culture Filters, Reduces Plastic Waste

  • Evolution in culture media enables a projected reduction of 1,400+ plastic filters used in biologics manufacturing
  • Projected $1.2 million and more than one ton of plastic in annual savings

It all started with a workshop and a humble yellow Post-it® Note. In early 2018, at the Biogen Forward ideas session, Michael Perkins, Manager of Large-Scale Manufacturing Technical Operations at Biogen’s RTP facility in North Carolina, wrote “filter optimization” on his sticky yellow square.

RTP grows cells for cell culture processes, and the media that feed them is blended in-house. In the years since RTP began operations, however, there has been an evolution in the type of media used for newer products. Perkins, who once was a Process Engineer for the filter transfer stations, believed the newer media might allow a reduction in the number of heavy plastic filters required.

Studies of product flow followed, along with the creation of a model to calculate an optimal number of filters required for the new media based on expected flow rate. The results were clear: RTP’s plant filter use could be significantly reduced.

“I knew there was an opportunity to go back and save,” Perkins said. “What shocked me was just how big an opportunity there was. I didn’t realize, annually, just how many of these we use.” In fact, Perkins’ team projected that RTP could potentially eliminate 1,420 filters yearly for an annual savings of $1.2 million. Additionally, this program could also potentially prevent 2,600 pounds of plastic from entering the waste stream.

These results have had a ripple effect throughout Biogen and we plan to scale our other facilities that use similar cultures. Apparently that humble Post-it® Note was not so humble after all.