Amgen’s head of automation, Darren O’Brien, discusses how this technology has changed pharma and manufacturing.

When Darren O’Brien started working in automation, he used to find it very difficult to explain what it was and what it did in manufacturing. However, as technology has advanced, it has become easier to talk about the role it plays.

“To describe what I do and what my team do, we’re responsible for automation of equipment that essentially responds in millisecond time frames to multiple inputs and drive multiple outputs as a result,” he said.

“In pharmaceutical manufacturing, in our area, a good example is in the filling of vials. So, vials are used in hospitals to inject drugs into patients. We take a large vessel full of product and we fill it into individual vials and then package those vials. All of those operations are automated. We have machines that run at, say, 400 vials per minute.”

Automation also plays a role in ensuring the environment this work is carried out in is completely sterile and O’Brien and his team maintain, operate and program these automation systems.

“We have quite a simple vision and it literally is: everything that can be automated should be automated and everything else should be simplified.”


Words by Jenny Darmody