How do you multiply influenza vaccine? The astonishing answer: They are bred in chicken eggs. That is the well-proven method for decades, and it has to be done within short lead (or breed) times. A Chinese manufacturer of vaccines uses 18 Stäubli robots to accelerate vaccine production before the influenza season starts.
This is a demanding task for robots: They are used for the handling of thousand of eggs under hygienic conditions with the goal of breeding influenza vaccine. A pharmaceutic manufacturer in Wuhan/China is a pioneer in employing robots for this critical process.
Founded in 1950, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co., Ltd. has up to now developed many vaccines – for Corona, for example, and for encephalitis. Year for year, the company produces the adapted vaccine for the season´s influenza protection in high numbers. Speed is a critical issue here – the virus does not wait.
The vaccine is produced by multiplying it in chicken´s eggs. They are inoculated with a small dose of the active substance and stored in a breeding chamber for 48 to 72 hours. Then the multiplied vaccine is evacuated under, of course, strict hygienic conditions, including a thorough inspection of each single egg.
This process has now been automated with the help of the solution provider Wuhan Xinhao Intelligent Technology – and with Stäubli robots. Two identical automated production lines with nine six axis-robots each are employed: five Stäubli TX200 and four RX160L, the “L” standing for “long reach”. Thanks to their outstanding drive technology, these robots convince with impressive dynamics and at the same time very smooth path travel - a characteristic that is particularly noticeable when handling fragile eggs.
At first, the Stäubli robots transport the trays with eggs to a first inspection station. Here, the chicken embryos are screened for useability. Operators replace unqualified eggs on the trays with new and qualified ones. The robot then transports the trays to the inoculation room for virus injection.
After the virus has been multiplied in large quantities in these chambers, four robots will jointly complete the egg screening, handling and transfer. The first step takes place in the harvest room, two robots transport the egg embryos to the production line, and the harvesting needle is inserted into the egg hole to extract the propagated virus fluid to complete the harvest.
In these steps, hygienic conditions, precision and speed are crucial. Finally, the egg trays are transported into the cleaning room for thorough cleaning, and the last robot will recover the egg tray for recycling.
Han Xixin explains, in short, the customer´s benefit : “We ensure a hygienic, safe and efficient vaccine production, and we relieve our skilled employees from really strenuous and repetitive work. Furthermore, efficiency is greatly improved, and the risk of damage of egg embryos caused by manual handling errors is avoided.”