Investing in biotechnology : ARD doubles the capacity of its industrial demonstrator, BioDemo

Biotechnologies are booming – and so is ARD! Thanks to its unique know-how and facilities, from the laboratory to industrial-scale production, ARD attracts customers from all around Europe and even from California.

And now, at the start of 2022, ARD has started building a new BioDemo.

Deputy Managing Director, Philippe Aubry, and Head of Industrial Scale-up, Bertrand Douzamy, explain how and why this is happening.

Can you remind us what BioDemo is for?
Philippe Aubry - I should first specify that BioDemo is the nickname that we at ARD have given to our first industrial demonstrator, which we installed in 2009: “Bio” is short for biotechnologies, and “Demo” is short for industrial demonstrator. Basically, BioDemo is what enables ARD to develop innovative biotechnology processes and scale them up as well as do contract production.
Bertrand Douzamy - That’s right. From the laboratory to the BioDemo industrial demonstrator, ARD covers every step on the TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale, which measures a project’s technological maturity. Because all its equipment is on the same site, ARD can accelerate the scale-up of production process while optimising costs.
PA – In summary, BioDemo enables ARD to act as a project incubator and to accelerate industrial innovation. I often compare our activity to that of a test pilot: we check the reliability of processes before our customer starts building their own production facilities. Another thing that sets us apart is that we have an open platform: we work with start-ups and major companies from all over the world.
ARD already has a BioDemo, why invest in another one?
PA – Quite simply because the biotechnology sector is booming. Our facilities and expertise is well known and recognised. That’s the price of success! In order to manage this growth and meet our customers’ expectations, we must invest. Projects that are currently in the pilot phase will enter the industrialisation phase in one year and full-scale production will begin by 2023.
BD – This new facility will enable us to continue developing both aspects of our business, which make us unique and established our reputation: on the one hand, R&D on developing processes for our customers’ to produce molecules of interest, and on the other hand, scaling-up these processes, and contract production. I should add that this new BioDemo will not require the construction of new buildings. It’s a new line that will be installed next to the first one.
Is this new BioDemo different to the first one?
PA – It’s not really different. Let’s say that it’s the same thing – only better! In building this new line we obviously factored in everything we have learned on line 1, which was installed in 2009, in terms of engineering, technological choices and compliance with ISO 22000.  
BD - Thanks to this experience, we will have more agility, we can intensify our operations, it will be more reliable and the processes will be more robust. In fact, the improvements we will make on line 2 are already being implemented on line 1. There is one difference regarding the new line, however: the size of the fermenter will be increased from 180 m³ to 220 m³.
What are the main stages of this project?
PA - The feasibility study began a year ago, for a first budgetary estimation. We got the green light in June. And the equipment was ordered before the end of 2021. 
BD – The large equipment and all the peripherals needed to operate it will be installed throughout the year. In March, we will receive two large tanks – whose main purpose is to free-up fermentation capacity – which will be commissioned in June; in May, we will receive the glucose tanks, which will be commissioned in September. And in September, we will also receive the large fermenter, which will be commissioned at the end of 2022. In total, the project will be completed in 18 months.
18 months is very short for a project of this scope…
PA -  It’s already very short in a normal period, and our teams’ performance is all the more remarkable given the supply chain difficulties we are encountering, delivery lead times, and the increase in raw material prices.
BD – Our strength is in our experience and that of our engineering consultant, which installed the first BioDemo in 2009. More generally, all the partners we are working with on every aspect of the project are solid, responsive and efficient. We know them well and they know us well: working with people in whom you have confidence enables you to save time and be more efficient!
18 months to complete the project
An investment of under €10 million
35 jobs will eventually be created: five people recruited in June 2021 are currently being trained to use the equipment, five more people currently being recruited.