Immersive virtual reality as a competitive training strategy for the biopharma industry

Immersive virtual reality simulations tailored to aspiring industry operators in biopharma manufacturing could become a cost-effective alternative to real-life training for teaching practical skills.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Flow chart of study setup.
Fig. 2: Direct and indirect performance metrics comparing VR with SOP reading and real-life training.
Fig. 3: Enjoyment and mental effort comparing VR with SOP reading and real-life training.


  1. 1.

    Pai, D. R., Kamath, K., Subramanyam, E. V. S. & Shabaraya, A. R. Int. J. Pharm. Qual. Assur. 7, 55–61 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Bhattachary, J. J. Pharm. 5, 29–36 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Gundersen, L. E. Nat. Biotechnol. 19, 1187–1188 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    McGee, A. Reducing human error rates in pharmaceutical facilities. (2013).

  5. 5.

    Fayad, A. How much does it really cost to train an employee? (2015).

  6. 6.

    Mikulic, M. 2019 ranking of the global top 10 biotech and pharmaceutical companies based on employee number. (2019).

  7. 7.

    Ballu, A. et al. Procedia CIRP 43, 148–153 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Smetana, L. K. & Bell, R. L. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 34, 1337–1370 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Rutten, N., Van Joolingen, W. R. & Van Der Veen, J. T. Comput. Educ. 58, 136–153 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Seymour, N. E. World J. Surg. 32, 182–188 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Seymour, N. E. et al. Ann. Surg. 236, 458–464 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Matzke, J., Ziegler, C., Martin, K., Crawford, S. & Sutton, E. J. Surg. Res. 211, 191–195 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Gallagher, A. G. & Cates, C. U. Lancet 364, 1538–1540 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Dawe, S. R. et al. Ann. Surg. 259, 236–248 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Bonde, M. T. et al. Nat. Biotechnol. 32, 694–697 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Makransky, G., Thisgaard, M. W. & Gadegaard, H. PLoS One (2016).

  17. 17.

    Li, C., Liang, W., Quigley, C., Zhao, Y. & Yu, L. F. IEEE Trans. Vis. Comput. Graph. 23, 1275–1284 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Makransky, G., Borre-Gude, S. & Mayer, R. E. J. Comput. Assist. Learn. 35, 691–707 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Chittaro, L. & Buttussi, F. IEEE Trans. Vis. Comput. Graph. 21, 529–538 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Mayer, R. E. The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2014).

  21. 21.

    Johnson-Glenberg, M. C. in Learning in a Digital World: Perspective on Interactive Technologies for Formal and Informal Education (eds. Díaz, P. et al.) 83–112 (Springer Singapore, 2019);

  22. 22.

    Hooper, J. et al. J. Arthroplasty 34, 2278–2283 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Jensen, L. & Konradsen, F. Educ. Inf. Technol. 23, 1515–1529 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Andreasen, N. K., Baceviciute, S., Pande, P. & Makransky, G. in 26th IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, VR 2019 – Proceedings 840–841 (IEEE, 2019).

  25. 25.

    Makransky, G., Terkildsen, T. S. & Mayer, R. E. Learn. Instr. 60, 225–236 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Arnett, J. J. Am. Psychol. 63, 602–614 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Hanel, P. H. P. & Vione, K. C. PLoS One (2016).

  28. 28.

    Association of Production Schools. The Danish production schools – an introduction.

  29. 29.

    Bringslimark, V. Moving Beyond “Read and Understand” SOP Training (Parenteral Drug Association, 2015).

  30. 30.

    Nakic, J., Granic, A. & Glavinic, V. J. Educ. Comput. Res. 51, 459–489 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Lyons, E. J. et al. Health Psychol. 33, 174–181 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank our collaborators from the biopharma industry, A. Pittelkov, J. Scholl-Fleischer, S. Martinussen, J. N. Sørensen and F. Christensen, for providing reagents and equipment, co-creating the VR simulation and organizing the interventions at the production schools. We would like to acknowledge L. Dam Pedersen, K. Juul Thomson, M. Nielsen Gravholt and M. Lyhne Haslund for inviting us to conduct this study at their schools. Acknowledgements also to our metrology experts N. Vad Eiberg, H. Graulund and T. Bolt Botnen for training students in real life and assessing their practical skills. Great thanks to M. Mouritz Marfelt for initiating and negotiating the collaboration with the biopharma industry. Our thanks also go to S. Stauffer, A. Mortensen and E. Durand, who helped with instructing participants on how to use the VR headsets on the training days. We would like to acknowledge D. Franke, S. Tjong, H. Hansen and N. Dewa for their relentless effort creating the VR simulation. Finally, our thanks go to C. Tachibana for copyediting. The study was funded by Innovation Fund Denmark, large-scale project 5150-00033, SIPROS. M.O.A.S. further acknowledges funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation under NFF grant number NNF10CC1016517.

Author information




P.W. designed the study, managed the project and analyzed the data. F.C.-K. designed the VR simulation and coordinated the content collaboration. P.W., S.B, A.L.C. and F.C.-K executed the study. P.W., S.B., A.L.C. and M.O.A.S. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Morten Otto Alexander Sommer.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

A.L.C. and F.C.-K. are employees of Labster ApS. P.W. and S.B. received funding from a joint grant between the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark and Labster ApS, where they were formerly employed. P.W, A.L.C. and F.C.-K. hold warrants in Labster ApS according to the length of their employment.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods and Table 1

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wismer, P., Lopez Cordoba, A., Baceviciute, S. et al. Immersive virtual reality as a competitive training strategy for the biopharma industry. Nat Biotechnol 39, 116–119 (2021).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing