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Back Jack, do it again
March 2009
by Chris Anderson  |  Email the author
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ROYSTON, U.K.—A design-and-build project for a fully automated system for salt and polymorph screening of novel compounds under a three-year long collaboration with AstraZeneca recently netted U.K.-based life science instrumentation and integration company TTP Labtech a welcome response from AZ: "Build us another one."

The system is now deployed at AZ's research and development headquarters in Södertälje, Sweden, a facility that focuses primarily on neuroscience and developing therapeutics for pain and central nervous system disorders.

"AZ had a manual process but they wanted to improve efficiency and increase throughput," says Jason Mundin, commercial director for TTP LabTech. "This project literally started as a blank sheet of paper. AZ knew what they wanted the system to be capable of and it was up to TTP LabTech to work with them to find the right solution."
From the blank sheet of paper came a concept of how the system would work along with the workflows. From there, the platform could be deconstructed into its constituent parts, or modules.

"Our development approach with this project, as with all custom automation, is to identify key risk areas and develop these as sub-modules first. This allows us to more accurately estimate the final cost for such a complex project," notes Jas Sanghera, commercial director at TTP. "This approach helps us give confidence to our clients and a reassurance that we have a good understanding of the development process."

The key risk areas tend to be tools and instruments for which there is no approximate equivalent on the market and need to be built from scratch. Once these modules were developed, TTP was able to turn its attention to other, less problematic areas of the system integration.

"Once we built the prototypes, we could get other people at our company working in
parallel, while the individual modules were being tested," says Sanghera.

The entire system through its development was built at TTP Labtech headquarters in the U.K. In early 2008, once it was completed, AZ and TTP workers put it through its paces to validate the entire system.

But that wasn't the end. Once up to AZ's specs, the system was taken apart, shipped and reassembled at its Södertälje facility and then re-tested as part of a site acceptance test (SAT), which it passed late last year, before coming online.

"Working in partnership with TTP LabTech has resulted in an excellent solution," says Matti Ahlqvist, the project manager for AstraZeneca. "We set a very demanding specification and are delighted that virtually all the functionality has been achieved. Now that the first system is up and running for our drug projects, we look forward to delivery of the second system and further increasing throughput."

The second system, while not guaranteed, was certainly part of the overall plan from the outset of the design process, Mundin notes.

"AZ knew what throughput they were looking to achieve, and so the first phase was to get the initial system up and running and iron out any issues," he says. "Once that was achieved, we could then move on and build the second system."

With the tricky development already tackled, TTP Labtech anticipates it will deliver the second unit by the end of this year.
 
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