ReactionWare 3D Printed Medicine

The University of Glasgow has released a Chemistry research paper covering the applicational process of printing pharmaceutical compounds.

Yes thats correct actually printing medication. Using various feedstock of chemicals they see a future where manufacturing your medication from home will be possible. Using standard 3D printing technology it is possible to assemble pre-filled “vessels” in such a way that the required chemical reactions take place to produce the required medication. This will be like having a minature medication manufacturing facility in your home. The possible implications of this could be far reaching.

There would need to be a locked down software etc or certain chemcials restrictions to prevent the misuse of this technology. Prof [Lee Cronin], who came up with the paper’s principal has called this process “reactionware”

Professor [Cronin] found, using this fabrication process, that even the most complicated of vessels could be built relatively quickly in just a few hours.

[via boingboing]


33 thoughts on “ReactionWare 3D Printed Medicine

  1. I’m really interested to see what will happen with 3d printing as time goes on. There’s going to be some huge social issues with people creating things in their own home that the government believes shouldn’t be obtainable. Gun parts. Drugs. Who knows what else we’ll be able to make in our own home just by printing something off the internet.

  2. Yeah, this is sort of what I worry about with 3DP. The awesome reputation it has now could be sullied by it being misused. Regardless, this is awesome, especially if it could be used in places where medicine is hard to come by.

    1. We have the 3D production capabilities, now we need the companion technology: compact desktop analysis units. Give it a sample of feedstock, and it breaks it down into its components and their structure. That would give you the ability to extract feedstock materials from whatever you have around, and re-use it. It would also help in medical diagnosis, and environmental toxin remediation.

      1. The concerns about this are largely overblown. First of all – it doesn’t simply work like you mix two “inks” together and presto – a 100% pure drug is born. Not even CLOSE. Second, printing anything out of metal is almost impossible and will be for some time. Metal sintering is great but it’s very expensive to create a vacuum chamber, high powered sintering laser, optics, infiltration system and the like. This will not simply become cheap overnight.

  3. There are already people using 3D printing to create parts for firearms, zipguns, etc…
    Where I live (Ozarks of the US) we already have hundreds of idiots making methamphetamine with random “junk” as their feedstock and their portable “lab”, and exposing people to horrific toxic chemical waste as a result.
    I don’t think that 3D print technology will, or can be, banned or restricted. It’s too easy to disguise as something else, from a desktop CNC (what it derives from), to an etch-a-sketch toy, or a specialized cooking device (cake icing decorator). The parts aren’t exactly hard to come by, either: a 3D gantry system, a controller, dispenser head, and a PC with software. Any restrictions put into the software will be cracked and bypassed (probably within a day, or a week at most). Sadly, removing restrictions would also remove safeties, but that won’t stop it from happening.

  4. Print your meds at home? Want to make unauthorized pills to pop? Simply swap the contents of the feedstock containers to that which will make what you want while the control system thinks it is printing an allergy pill.

      1. Actually, it seems like compounding pharmacists are a thing of the past. I have tried on several occasions to get a number of simple formulas put together (simple salves, suspensions and even burrough’s solution) that were once common, but now cannot be obtained commercially.

        A compounding pharmacist might – MIGHT – be willing to divide pills, or add distilled water to something. They will not actually make a pill, assemble gel-caps nor mix ingredients.

        Big Pharma is against adulterated and inferior drugs, and at this point have pretty much gutted the local pharmacies from doing anything of the sort. From time to time, you might find a pharmacy owner diluting or substituting expensive drugs (just like a bartender might serve a drunk customer 50% water to make a buck) and getting caught, but that’s about as close as we get anymore. Otherwise, volume drug manufacturers have your back.

        Mind you, they will happily purchase inferior or tainted bulk ingredients on the open market and deliver medicines of completely random quality and sometimes lacking effective agents… but it’s a big business and who else could do the job?

        Most medicines we have today are essentially purified or synthesized versions of folk remedies that have been used for centuries. The ones which represent actual scientific research tend to be effective only for certain individuals, and pack many side effects of varying difficulty.

        This will change as we learn to analyze, target and manipulate the DNA/RNA to make drugs more selective, but also means a lot of people are going to be unhappy guinea pigs while we work the kinks out.

  5. People seem to be misunderstanding here… they’re not printing with chemicals here… they’re just printing silicone caulk to make labware. Beakers and test tubes and such. Nobody’s going to be printing drugs for a long time.

  6. I thought this is mostly about pills and other containers for meds to deliever them into the body. Many meds would be best inhaled, who needs pills. Tabletop drugs are one thing, I don’t have to take them. Tabletop germs and viruses are next, who needs Plum Island. Will we survive.

    1. Many meds would be best inhaled, but aren’t because it is hugely complicated. Making and taking tablets is easy but inhaled drugs are really difficult. To give you an idea of how complex the interactions are between patient, drug and delivery device look at the regulations governing the introduction of generic drugs: Tablets only need to show chemical equivalence but inhaled drugs need to show in-human dose equivalence.

      1. Actually, inhalation isn’t always the best way; intravenous, intramuscular, intra-oral and a variety of weird delivery mechanisms like patches or rectal suppositories have their place – you don’t always want medication to react as it would with inhalation.

        Having said that, I often think about causing a stir by grinding up baby aspirin with a razor blade and doing my best imitation of Hugh Laurie and his straw. So far, chewing works just fine.

  7. Look, regardless of whether or not you think that free people should be allowed to put whatever they want into their bodies, having people make their own recreational drugs would still be a relatively good thing.

    Consider the following:
    1) Drug violence would be reduced, as drug dealers would fall by the wayside
    2) People would be less likely to get tainted or improperly made drugs (Which, more often than not, is the cause of most hospital visits and deaths associated with them)
    3) It would keep people from making full sized meth labs which, you know, have a tendency to explode

  8. Given the awful yeilds and complex synthetic pathways for a lot of modern drugs I can’t see this taking off. You’ve also got to control all steps of any reaction to a high degree of accuracy and then spend a week purifing the brown sludge at the end of it. Also QC is going to be a major issue, when I make 1000000 doses of drug I don’t notice the cost of testing 10 units however the cost of testing 10 units from a batch of 100 is quite noticable.

  9. I’m seriously tired of paranoid talk like this.

    I constantly see it on TED talks in the comments:

    -new agile quad copters invented
    –90% of the comments: “OMG WARFARE USE, THIS IS AWFUL”.

    -new miniature cameras are invented
    –90% of the comments: “OMG THEY ARE GOING TO SPY ON US”

    Seriously, if this crapfest continues we’ll be back to the stone ages within generations.

    YES there are misuse of technology. There always will be. But this is a flaw of the human race, not the technology.

    Also i find it extremely odd that most of the commenters are American. I mean, fight tooth and claw for the right to sell and buy firearms, but get extremely paranoid over a 3D printer that POTENTIALY could print drugs! Oh my!

    Guns don’t kill people, people do. 3D printers don’t print drugs, people do.

    1. You make me wonder… Could a bio organism – say a slime mold, or other motile bacteria – acquire and sequester the elements you speak of in order to construct a working pile of some sort? It’s like working with telepathic goats – there’s always funding for weaponized dolphins and cyborg tabbey cats. I’m guessing it would be terribly, terribly inefficient but that never seems to stop Darpa.

  10. I am waiting for that DNA printer: Buy ‘God Kit’ now on TVShop. Only $199! Kit contains: DNA printer, 10 empty egg cells, artificial uterus and design software. With software you can design anything from virus to mammal. Software has hundreds design templates, or you can start from scratch. Software also has simulator, so you can estimate lifespan and do visual inspection before DNA printing. Order today, and you also receive ‘I am a god’ T-shirt.

  11. Quick fetch the tin foil the government are trying to read our minds.

    Really cant see what the fuss is about, even of it improved to the point where it could print a range of complex chemicals. The quantities of scale will mean that it will always be cheaper to make large quantitys of the chemical in a dedicated LAB somewhere

  12. The culture purification this enables… sweeeet! Homebrew [beer | bread | buttermilk | vinegar | miso | cheese] is about to become *better*! Imagine being able to reasonably create the equipment to isolate each flavor of [yeast | bacteria | fungi] at home. Anything your can keep appropriately clean with a sufficient number of isolated growing areas has been not-reasonable. It looks like this gets you there, and I bet you can modify the printer to handle the pipettes and swabbing as well.

    As for making chemicals… the feedstocks are the same problem as ever before, and half the solvents for [recrystallization | separation | drying] will dissolve the things we can print with. Fugettaboutit (for now). Tissue culture is more accessible… oh, wait… that gets us to the same endpoint. Nevermind, just grow your own bioproducers of whatever you want. Aspergillus Niger is probably a good place to start. Make your own vitamin C.

    “The mold in the fridge? Yes it is a science experiment… hey, while you’re in there, will you weigh the colony for me?”

    1. The article has two rockin’ tricks for hackers right now:

      1. The immobilization of catalysts in silicone sealant is a neat trick to remember… that’s right up there with yeast immobilization (enables continuous fermentation

      2. Another path to printed batteries. The printed conductive strips: “The strips carried currents that stimulated an electrochemical reaction within the vessel.” Most reactions like that have a reverse path that would constitute a battery.

      … and of course, the combination of immobilized microbes and electrochemistry obviously suggests the grow-your-own battery.


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