This week, bioprocessing equipment and services supplier GE Healthcare announced it has made a “meaningful minority stake” in its automation collaborative partner Zenith Technologies and has taken a seat on its board.
The deal is the latest in a string of investments by vendors in third-party automation software, controls and technology partners.
Last week Sartorius AG acquired its long-term process analytical technology (PAT) and quality by design (QbD) software partner MKS Instruments AB for $72.5m (€68m). And in February Thermo Fisher bought Finesse Solutions, a developer of scalable control automation systems and software for bioproduction and a partner the firm has been working with since 2013.
While such deals could be considered competitive expansions in the highly consolidated bioprocessing sector, Eric Langer – managing partner at independent strategic biomanufacturing information and analysis firm BioPlan Associates – told us investments in automation and PAT technologies make logical business sense.
“The more these guys integrate their software into hardware solutions, the more locked in they can become. Further, as the industry continues focusing on manufacturing productivity and efficiency, the more they need to rely on automation, integrated equipment, controllers, software, etc.
“So it’s also probably a strategic move to capture the future ability to streamline production.”
He added automation integration also has benefits from a regulatory perspective, as the more automation, the less human interaction and the fewer failures.
His views were echoed by Jan Makela, general manager of Bioprocess at GE Healthcare Life Sciences:
“GE decided to invest in Zenith Technologies, as automation is becoming increasingly important for our customers, biopharmaceutical manufacturers who are looking for increased efficiency, productivity and increased product quality,” he told Biopharma-Reporter.com.
“Automation brings significant benefits to their production processes, and the role of automation is likely to only accelerate in the near future as new opportunities emerge with digitalisation.”