NATICK, Mass. – Having a “clean” room – a strictly controlled, enclosed environment that prevents contamination of products and provides quality control for the processing of raw materials – is essential for the production of vaccines. With this in mind, a team from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Operation Warp Speed, or OWS, investigated existing military capabilities and reached out to the experts at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, or DEVCOM, Soldier Center for potential clean-room solutions to support OWS’s COVID-19 vaccine effort.
Janet O’Callahan, a project engineer at the DEVCOM Soldier Center providing support to the Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological & Nuclear Protection, and the Joint Expeditionary Collective Protection (JECP) product team, explained that members of the OWS team reached out to inquire if there was an existing capability to assist one of the pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines for COVID-19.
“OWS was specifically looking for an interim clean-room solution that the pharmaceutical company could quickly deploy to be used for quality controlled processing of raw materials for the production of vaccines,” said O’Callahan.
O’Callahan recommended adapting a JECP system with additional CBRN filtration. The JECP Stand Alone Large system, or SAL, is a quick-erect field deployable shelter system that protects against chemical and biological warfare agents. The main components are a tent with an environmental control unit, an airlock for safe entry/exit in a CB environment, and a CBRN filtration system. The JECP SAL would be combined with additional CBRN filtration to achieve the required air exchanges to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s clean-room requirements for the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
The experts at DEVCOM Soldier Center, along with the JECP product team, worked with the pharmaceutical company on its requirements.
“We proposed our design for their review,” said O’Callahan. “While the OWS teams were evaluating the concept, a JECP SAL system was set up at Natick to prove out the concept to insure the additional components with the SAL would work together.”
Several CCDC Soldier Center teams helped with this effort, including the Protection Systems Engineering and Protection Technology Development Teams from the Protection Systems Division, which was tasked with the design and evaluation of the systems. The Systems Development and Engineering Team also aided the effort by rapidly producing 3D-printed parts to enable components to interface with SAL. The Soldier Center’s tent shop also helped modify the plenum system.
Ultimately, the OWS team opted not to use the modified JECP SAL system, but the Soldier Center’s work helped OWS come up with a potential solution using filtration based on the modified JECP SAL system’s design.
O’Callahan noted that the OWS team found the Soldier Center’s contribution valuable, “because it allowed them to think outside of the box and come up with a similar solution using filtration.”
The DEVCOM Soldier Center is committed to discovering, developing, and advancing science and technology solutions that ensure America’s warfighters are optimized, protected, and lethal. DEVCOM Soldier Center supports all of the Army's Modernization efforts, with the Soldier Lethality and Synthetic Training Environment Cross Functional Teams being the DEVCOM Soldier Center’s chief areas of focus. The center’s science and engineering expertise are combined with collaborations with industry, DOD, and academia to advance Soldier and squad performance. The center supports the Army as it transforms from being adaptive to driving innovation to support a Multi-Domain Operations Capable Force of 2028 and a MDO Ready Force of 2035. DEVCOM Soldier Center is constantly working to strengthen Soldiers’ performance to increase readiness and support for warfighters who are organized, trained, and equipped for prompt and sustainable ground combat.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach and mentoring the next generation of scientists and engineers is also an important part of the mission of DEVCOM Soldier Center. The mentoring of students by Army scientists and engineers benefits the students and their communities. It also increases young people's awareness of potential Army job opportunities and helps provide the Army with potential new talent, helping to fuel innovative ideas that benefit the nation's warfighters and the nation as a whole.
DEVCOM Soldier Center is part of DEVCOM. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, DEVCOM leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our nation's wars and come home safely. DEVCOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.