Over the last year, 3D printers have inspired a lot of futuristic ideas. One of the more lofty ideas was the creation of medicine via 3D printing. At the time, it was only a theory, but a group of researchers think they have exactly what it takes to begin crafting drugs with a 3D printer.
Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, researchers at Parabon NanoLabs and Janssen Research & Development are now creating and testing cancer drugs made with a 3D printer. The technology is called the Parabon Essemblix Drug Development Platform, and it can potentially bring rapid prototyping to drug creation. If successful, it could drastically reduce the time it takes to bring new drugs to market.
Steven Armentrout, co-developer of the technology, explains the new method of drug creation:
“We can now ‘print,’ molecule by molecule, exactly the compound that we want. What differentiates our nanotechnology from others is our ability to rapidly, and precisely, specify the placement of every atom in a compound that we design.”
Senior research scientist, Hong Zhong, describes the new technology as “a deliberate and methodical engineering process.” He also says that “it’s quite different from most other drug development approaches in use today.”
So what makes the 3D printing of drugs so advantageous? Much like regular 3D printing, the researchers can rapid prototype new drugs in a matter of weeks. The current process of bringing a new drug to market can take years. The new process won’t cut down on the time it takes to test these new drugs, which could still take years, but it makes the actual process of creating drugs much faster than before.
For now, the team at Parabon is creating a new prostate cancer drug with their technology. In its current form, the new drug “combines a toxin with a chemical that makes cancer cells susceptible to that toxin.” It also contains components that prevent the drug from targeting healthy tissue, and markers that allow the researchers to track the drug as it moves to tumors. The design work and synthesis of the drug will amazingly only take a few weeks.