How wearable aR technology gives new opportunities to the regulated pharmaceutical industry

How purpose-built tools improve efficiency and help bring new drugs to patients at record speed

The life sciences industry—and the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry that lies within it—is in the middle of a shift from legacy modalities such as small molecule drugs into advanced cell and gene therapies. Many companies are realizing that their legacy systems and processes aren’t working in this fast-paced new environment of personalized medicine. Pharmaceutical businesses have turned to assisted reality wearables as a part of their larger technology platforms, in order to strengthen the manufacturing process throughout the drug lifecycle and stay competitive in an increasingly complex field.

Updated processes for complex drugs

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the pharmaceutical world was tasked with delivering a novel mRNA vaccine that would save millions of lives. It quickly became clear that assisted reality (aR) technology and remote collaboration tools were going to play a large role in solving the industry’s new mandate to deliver increasingly complex drugs on even faster timelines. In short, the pandemic radically changed the game. Pharmaceutical teams are discovering how effective these rapid solutions are when it comes to the rest of the industry.

Cell and gene therapies offer huge potential as treatments for a wide range of diseases including cancer, neurological, and genetic diseases. However, the process of manufacturing them is radically different than that of small molecule drugs. Increasing drug complexity naturally means operators are tasked with more complicated steps and instructions. These new processes require additional documentation and validation requirements in order to meet compliance standards.  As a result, providing accurate data for each new action is key, making it essential for pharmaceutical companies to integrate their processes and workflows with industry-specific hardware and software solutions.

Unlike other industries making the move moving toward new technology platforms, pharmaceutical manufacturers are limited by the FDA and other international regulatory bodies in the kinds of software and hardware they can deploy. These companies are held to a higher set of regulatory standards and cybersecurity protocols, which makes it necessary for them to invest in software platforms and hardware that are purpose-built for the industry. 

What makes a purpose-built wearable?

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are often hailed as the next big thing, but these Extended Reality technologies aren’t always practical when used as manufacturing or laboratory tools – in fact, they can be inappropriate for workers in many use cases. Alternatively, Assisted Reality (aR) wearables – such as RealWear’s head-mounted displays (HMDs) – safely bring together the physical and the digital world to create new kinds of interactivity and perception—all while allowing the user to maintain full situational awareness. 

An appropriate wearable for the Life Sciences industry is a clean-room-ready, industrial-strength aR device that connects frontline workers based within labs, manufacturing suites, factories and throughout entire companies with the data and collaboration tools they need to successfully complete tasks safely and efficiently. aR wearables such as the head-mounted RealWear Navigator 500 allow users to interact and capture data while keeping their hands-free using intuitive voice commands the control the device and access necessary information when they need it. This is a game-changer for those working in highly regulated environments where limited tools are allowed. Some spaces have more stringent safety regulations, and require an intrinsically safe alternative, in these situations the ATEX certified RealWear HMT-1Z1 is proving to be an incredibly valuable tool.

Putting technology into practice

Once a company has made the investment in purpose-built technology that can handle the rigors of a laboratory or manufacturing suite setting, it can begin to explore new and exciting ways to streamline workflows, enhance cross-team collaboration, collect data more accurately, and even attract and retain top-tier talent. 

For example, let’s look at RealWear customer Apprentice.io.  Apprentice is leading the pharmaceutical industry toward technological transformation and helping pre-clinical, clinical and commercial manufacturers adopt the latest tools available. They’ve developed a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) as a part of their Tempo Manufacturing Cloud – which is natively integrated with RealWear Navigator 500. Tempo incorporates XR capabilities into mobile and head-mounted devices. As part of this combined solution, Navigator 500 helps companies execute increasingly complex batch recipes by providing voice-navigated audio instructions and Assisted Reality overlays, allowing operators to work hands-free.

A clean-room pharmaceutical worker accesses the Apprentice’s Tempo Manufacturing Cloud platform along with an intrinsically safe RealWear HMT-1Z1 headset.

“Making cutting-edge medicine (like cell and gene therapies) widely available is dependent on making a complex production process repeatable at scale,” said Angelo Stracquatanio, CEO and co-founder of Apprentice.io. “To do that, you need technology that helps human operators follow batch procedure and document process data faster and more reliably. Integration of RealWear headsets into our Tempo MES helps those operators make complex therapies consistently and with the highest quality, ultimately getting medicine to patients faster.”

Learn more about the many ways assisted reality devices such as the RealWear Navigator 500 are being deployed in the life sciences industry in our white paper, “Equipping the Life Sciences Industry for the Next Generation of Pharmaceutical Breakthroughs.

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