According to Nikkei Biotech, Astellas Pharma Inc. held a media tour at the Tsukuba Biotechnology Research Center on August 7, 2023. During the tour, robot Mahoro was shown to the media operating a culture plate.
Mahoro is a dual-armed robot developed by the Robotic Biology Institute (Koto, Tokyo; Kenji Matsuguma, President) and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and is characterized by its ability to perform multiple complex culture protocols. It is said to be able to perform experimental operations with the same or greater precision as a skilled worker. For example, it shows its power in the recovery process of iPS cell from a medium in which iPS cells and feeder cells are mixed at a high efficiency.
In addition, Mahoro improves the efficiency of technology transfer between research, manufacturing process research, and GMP manufacturing.
Astellas has developed Mahol-A-Ba, a system that combines Mahoro with cell culture and observation equipment to perform tasks such as changing cell culture media and passaging, and to observe cells. The company has so far deployed and utilized Mahol-A-Ba for drug discovery research at the Tsukuba Research Center and at the Kyoto University Center for iPS Cell Research (CiRA), a joint research partner.
During the tour, a demonstration showed how plates were removed and medium was exchanged with smooth, human-like movements. Mahoro can perform precise process control, such as aspiring culture medium at a constant rate at all times.
Astellas will construct a facility for manufacturing technology verification at the Tsukuba Biotechnology Research Center during FY2023, consult with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and prepare to obtain approval for cell medicine products manufactured using Mahoro. The company aims to supply investigational drugs and products on a platform using Mahoro by around 2026.