"Bad news wrapped up in protein"—that's how the late Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar and his wife and collaborator, Jean Medawar, once described viruses. In the case of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that "bad news" was an unprecedented global pandemic leading to millions of deaths.
The virus that caused this disruption is surprisingly simple: just 29 proteins wrapped around a single strand of RNA. Its entire RNA sequence can be typed on about 13 sheets of paper totaling, just 7.5 kilobytes of data. Compare that to the human genome, which, at more than 3 billion letters long, is about the same as a stack of 1,000 King James Bibles or about 725 megabytes of data.
Why is this comparison relevant? Because understanding how Covid-19 vaccines were developed so quickly and authorized for emergency use in less than a year— something that would have been unheard of even a few years ago—goes back to this simplicity and the ability to use software to develop digital vaccines.
But digital vaccines are only the beginning. Software and digitalization have also accelerated the next important phase of this work: scaling the production process to manufacture billions of doses of safe, effective vaccines.
Digital vaccines are only the beginning. Software and digitalization have also accelerated the next important phase of this work: scaling the production process to manufacture billions of doses of safe, effective vaccines.
Here's where the digital twin (DT) comes in: microfluidic manufacturing depends on multiphase computational fluid-dynamics simulations to design and validate both the manufacturing devices such as the mixers and the synthetic-vaccine production process. Computational fluid-dynamics simulations help formulate solutions to physical problems. Compared to traditional prototyping, computational fluid-dynamics simulations are less expensive to run, faster to complete, and give researchers a more in-depth understanding of the key elements at play in their operations
Today, pharmaceutical companies are using simulation software to construct digital twins of their products, often with help from companies like Siemens.
Published: June 1, 2021