Pharmaceutical production is closely related to mass production. To sell drugs cheaply, they often have to be made in large quantities. But what happens if you need a drug in a different dose than what is being sold? Or a different ingredient in the mix than in the offer?
Although personalized medicine currently exists, it is strictly small batch material, as compounding (the manual preparation of individualized drug treatments) is difficult, time consuming and has no quality control. But now start up Helsinki Curify Labs automates the process by bringing 3D drug printing to hospitals and veterinary facilities.
CurifyLabs was founded last year and has since raised €3.5 million in seed funding. With an ethos of Medicine-as-a-Service, the company prints medicines in 3D. It has created a way to safely develop medicines that meet a patient’s exact needs and are appropriate for their size, physiology and species – as well as any allergies they may have.
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Medicines can be printed in different shapes and flavors for easy swallowing by animals and children or with different release rates. In addition, the process reduces the chance of errors when composing. All medicines maintain pharmaceutical grade material quality, composition and shelf life – and there is also less material waste.
From inkjet to 3D printing
I spoke briefly with the company at Slush in Helsinki yesterday. Founder Niklas Sandler Topelius is a former professor of pharmaceutical technology at Akademi University. He started his experiments with an inkjet printer he bought at the supermarket and replaced the ink with pharmaceutical ingredients to prove the concept. The results were promising and the idea of 3D printing drugs took off.
And just to be clear, this isn’t a Breaking Bad, ragtag organization. This is a startup with serious scientific credibility. For example, Topelius has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, including 60 in the field of 3D printing medicines.
In technology, there is often the temptation to chase the next shiny thing, but more and more academic science spin-offs are popping up lately. These function as a highly effective way to market products that solve complex, real-world problems.
And CurifyLabs is one of them – although there is still a long way to go. While raising $3.5 million in seed capital is a great start, it’s just a drop in the ocean for the $1.42 trillion pharmaceutical market.
The hope is that these small beginnings can have a huge domino effect. If the initial work is successful, Curifylabs could change the way we treat disease. In the future, medicine can treat you as an individual. You can get medicines that are precisely tailored to your body. And that could change the world of health.