VR in Education: How Digital Impacts the Future of Biopharma
Digital tools are actively used today in the educational process. What opportunities do VR technologies offer in education, and can they become an alternative to industrial practice? Sergey Litvinets, Vice-Rector for Science and Innovation at the Vyatka State University, told our Social Navigator correspondent about the example of training specialists in the field of pharmaceutical biotechnology.
A series of advanced training programs in the production of sterile biopharmaceuticals have been developed by the Vyatka State University by order of Nanolek LLC with the support of the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs (RUSNANO Group).
Vyatka State University
— Sergey Gennadyevich, why did you include the use of the virtual reality technology in your professional development programs in biopharmaceuticals?
— The specific nature of biopharmaceutical companies is such that the most important and critical stages of the technological process take place in clean rooms. This causes particular difficulties in training employees for such production facilities because the work requires practical skills to work in clean rooms under the requirements of GMP (ed. —basic requirements for the organization of production and quality control of medicines), and it is very difficult to form them without risking the quality of the product manufactured.
— What opportunities does virtual reality offer for training specialists in special environments, such as a biopharmaceutical enterprise?
— Virtual reality is especially promising in vocational training, where the operation of real devices and mechanisms is associated with either increased risk or high costs. The difficulties characterize the aseptic production of a biopharmaceutical enterprise. A breach of asepsis by an untrained worker can lead to multi-mln-dollar losses due to inadequate product quality and harm the health of the product consumer.
Especially relevant is the use of simulators for the working professions, which, unlike specialists-engineers, often do not have the bundle of versatile knowledge and not always can correctly assess non-standard situations. It is also important for specialists coming from related industries, such as the food industry, which has completely different rules and regulations.
All of this requires developing and bringing to automatism the basic skills of behavior in the clean area of a biopharmaceutical enterprise, and understanding the essence of the entire production process, what other specialists are doing at a given time, how their actions will affect the specifics of the employee’s own actions.
Virtual reality provides an opportunity to learn the entire production process without risks, allows you to master the professional skills of several groups of workers, each of which will perform the appropriate set of technological operations in a clean area of biopharmaceutical enterprise in accordance with the GMP requirements. However, the training process is not limited in time and allows you to bring the right actions to automatism, to form the correct responses to most unusual situations that arise at work.
— Do you think VR technologies can replace real-world practice for biopharmaceutical professionals?
— We believe that due to the visibility, efficiency, and student involvement in the learning process, virtual reality technologies will confidently take their place in the process of training specialists in most high-tech industries.
Considering that virtual environment objects are not just qualitatively traced three-dimensional images but have certain properties similar to those of real objects and manifested in interaction with other virtual objects, the implementation of production equipment with its characteristics in the virtual reality simulator allows the most realistic training of skills in the production area.
Our experience shows that the use of the virtual reality simulator effectively forms practical skills of performing manufacturing operations in the production of biopharmaceuticals. VR is not an alternative to production practice, but effective preparation for technological operations in a real production environment.