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Skip the chemist and print your own drugs

22nd January 2018

 

Tom Whipple, The Times

A 3D printer for drugs has been developed by scientists in an advance they hope could make treatments cheaper and more personalised — and dramatically change the way the pharmaceutical industry works.

The prototype, designed by researchers from the University of Glasgow, is able to follow digital instructions and choose the sequence of reactions necessary to make complex drug molecules from standard chemicals.

The team used it to make three different active ingredients: one used to treat epilepsy, one to treat pain and stiffness and a third to combat gastric ulcers.

Leroy Cronin, a professor in the university’s school of chemistry, said that this was proof that it was possible to decentralise the traditional drugs factory, and in doing so gain benefits ranging from resurrecting old drugs to providing pharmacies to astronauts in space.

“We have these huge factories, all purposed to make one particular drug. If they finish with that drug, they are retooled to make another one,” he said. This means potentially useful but currently uneconomic drugs are lost. “But if the old drug is digitised, and all I had to do was take the code and make it, you can keep the drug forever and resurrect it. It is immortal.”