In just a few short years, BioNTech has grown from a small pharmaceutical company to an internationally active business with a global production network as well as value creation and supply chains that extend across the world. The company, which started out by developing individualized mRNA-based cancer drugs, managed to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 in record time. Manufacturing individualized medicines and producing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses requires detailed planning, coordination and management of the production processes involved. Working in collaboration with BioNTech, Fraunhofer ITWM in Kaiserslautern developed two software platforms that make it possible to implement planning and management processes for both cancer treatment and vaccination applications, and to adapt them to new requirements.
»This isn’t possible with commercially available software, it calls for a solution that uses flexible mathematical methods and models – a tailor-made solution that is not only specifically designed for the processes at BioNTech, but can also optimize them. In the long term, the software platforms will also help to more clearly distinguish the products according to the different regulatory requirements of the approval authorities, as well as supporting the automation of the processes.« So says Dr. Heiner Ackermann, a researcher at Fraunhofer ITWM and the High Performance Center Simulation and Software Based Innovation in Kaiserslautern. At the beginning of the partnership with BioNTech, the processes underwent detailed analysis, modeling, and structuring, based on information supplied by the pharmaceutical company. »First of all, we had to apply a structure to BioNTech’s specific requirements and translate this into the language of mathematics,« explains Dr. Ackermann, who has been the project manager responsible for developing and optimizing the software platforms since December 2016.