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EPSRC awards more than £6m to develop 3D printed medicines

The project is a collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham, Cambridge, Reading, and Strathclyde

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According to the University of Nottingham, a new research project has been awarded over £6m to develop a toolkit to allow 3D printed medicines to be manufactured effectively – bringing innovations like biological personalized pills and ‘living plasters’ closer to commercial production.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded, five-year project is a collaboration led by researchers from the Engineering and Pharmacy departments at the University of Nottingham, alongside the Universities of Cambridge, Reading, and Strathclyde.

The teams will work together to develop a toolkit that will allow the industry to identify, select, and process the correct materials to 3D print into new regenerative medicines and pharmaceuticals.

EPSRC awards more than £6m to the Universities of Nottingham, Cambridge, Reading, and Strathclyde to develop 3D printed medicines. “There is currently a lack of agility in UK manufacturing preventing 3D printing being developed in certain areas of industry. Manufacturing needs the capability to quickly, predictably, and reliably ‘dial up’ performance to produce products embedded with advanced functionality,” said Professor Ricky Wildman, project lead, from the University of Nottingham’s School of Engineering. “Many pharmaceutical firms don’t know how to go from concept to reality with 3D printing. They aren’t sure what materials are 3D-printable, or which order to combine the materials, or what function different geometric profiles have. This new project aims to provide all of this information to enable commercial application.”

Using computational modeling and machine learning, the team will develop instructions for use by the industry to accelerate the development cycle of new drugs – which could reduce timelines from two years to six months.

As part of the project, three test pharmaceutical products will be developed and tested – all of which rely on the incorporation of proteins or enzymes to promote cell growth, and have customizable, complex, and multi-material requirements.

The team is testing a biological pill that could potentially replace injected vaccines. This 3D printed personalized pill could be posted to the patient and taken easily – cutting out issues with logistics, delivery, and administration of the drug.

An intestinal patch, or ‘living plaster’, is also being developed. The plaster could calm inflammation, and potentially help patients with Crohn’s or bowel disease. The plaster would be laid over the internal area, and release active ingredients to help heal and support cell renewal.

“Whilst these products are in their infancy, we are hoping to be able to develop these innovations to demonstrate the capabilities of the 3D printing toolkit and be able to show how we can combine materials to provide personalized medicines that are safe, effective, and low cost,” said Professor Clive Roberts from the University of Nottingham’s School of Pharmacy.

“This is very exciting work which, through building cellular models, will improve our understanding of how the gut functions,” said Professor Mohammad llyas, a consultant at NHS Nottingham. “More importantly, if successful, it will lead to a paradigm shift in clinical management and launch the use of autologous tissue-engineered therapeutics for the treatment of bowel disease.”

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Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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