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New Member Spotlight: Lab Owl, an Automated Control Concepts Company

Robert J. Tomasetta founded Automated Control Concepts Inc. (ACC) in 1983, leaving the confines of the General Electric Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) business to open ACC’s first office in Union, New Jersey. He focused on programming those, at the time, very “mysterious” programmable controller devices.

ACC has grown into a 40+ person, much-admired company successfully executing projects across many industries, spanning five continents.  It also has a brand new division and product, Lab Owl™, which was launched to more specifically answer the biomanufacturing needs of their Life Science clients, who account for more than 50% of ACC’s current business.

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“ACC has a long history of providing process automation and information solutions to life science manufacturers in the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries – including participation in 4 ISPE Facility of the Year (FOYA) award-winning projects,”  explained Michael Blechman, ACC’s CEO.   “We developed Lab Owl™ to specifically address our clients’ needs for flexible and scalable bioreactor controls, data collection, reporting and analytics for their development labs, pilot plants and manufacturing.”

ACC follows a highly structured ‘requirements-first’ methodology based on GAMP 5 that results in systems and documentation that can be more easily qualified for GMP use, “added, Kevin Hannigan, President at ACC.  “This dedication to a process methodology, and our partnership mindset, has earned us the trust of our clients in the Life Science industry.”

“You could say that we build software for scientists who are always asking questions,” said Hannigan, “The Lab Owl® software, which is compatible with Rockwell/Allen-Bradley products, is bioreactor agnostic and designed with openness in mind.   Basically, that means we can connect with any legacy or new systems where you can add new modules on top of the platform.”

With a mission to provide high quality control and information products, services, and solutions to companies who are shaping the world in which we live, ACC strategically deploys new technology and continues to implement proven technology in the best interests of customers by asking the correct questions from the beginning of a project. This approach aligns with the mission of ARMI and the other partners who are collectively working to develop next-generation manufacturing processes and technologies for the emerging field of tissue engineering.

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“Lab Owl was developed in collaboration with scientists from several biotechnology companies.  Our experience working in GMP manufacturing gave us the insight and tools to thoroughly understand the unique challenges and requirements of process development labs.  We then leveraged ACC’s experience in areas like batch process control, track and trace and electronic batch record systems to develop a product to address those requirements,” continued Blechman.  “Over 10 years in the making, Lab Owl (previously marketed as bioStation) is the exciting result of this effort.”

“ACC’s history as a Life Science systems integrator had a major influence on Lab Owl’s modular and scalable design,” continued Blechman citing examples, “We have deployed Lab Owl in development labs with just one 3L bioreactor to labs with close to 100 units.  In addition Lab Owl has been used on much larger systems in full clinical manufacturing – recently to control and monitor a 4000 liter single-use bioreactor. This scalability and flexibility make tech transfer and scale-up much more efficient for a biotech company, since the same technology can be used throughout.”

Hannigan added, “For example, one client uses our technology in the development lab, pilot plant and manufacturing facility.”  While bioreactor control was certainly a key element of these projects, ACC’s integration team provided enormous value by taking responsibility of integration for all of the upstream, downstream and process utility operations in manufacturing.  “The systems that we coordinated included the upstream (media prep, bioreactors, centrifuges and harvest vessels), downstream (buffer prep, filtration, chromatography and formulation) and utilities, including city water supply and distribution, WFI water supply, storage and distribution, process waste, and biowaste.”

“ACC is an authorized Solution Partner of Rockwell Automation.  From our contacts at Rockwell, we were introduced to ARMI and had the opportunity to learn about its mission,” said Blechman when asked about how Lab Owl joined ARMI. “We were invited to include our Lab Owl™ system in the ARMI booth at Rockwell Automation Fair 2018.  After sharing the booth with ARMI, we knew we had to be a part of the ecosystem to assist both small and large scale manufacturing in Biofabrication.”

“Lab Owl wants to learn more about Biofabrication and collaborate in cell tissue engineering,” continued Hannigan, “This is a dynamic time and it will be an incredible journey to make tissue and then add in scaled-up manufacturing -- and we not only want to be a part but also help others understand ‘where to start’ by asking questions about the pain points in tissue engineering and what is needed for large-scale production.”