You could soon be manufacturing your own drugs—thanks to 3D printing

You could soon be manufacturing your own drugs—thanks to 3D printing
Forget those long lines at the pharmacy: Someday soon, you might be making your own medicines at home. Thats because researchers have tailored a 3D printer to synthesize pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from simple, widely available starting compounds fed into a series of water bottlesizereactors. The work, they say, could digitize chemistry, allowing users to synthesize almost any compound anywhere in the world.

It could become a milestone paper, a really seminal paper, says Fraser Stoddart, a chemist and chemistry Nobel laureate at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved with the work. This is one of those articles that has to make [people] sit up and take notice.

3D printing . Its used to make everything from shoes and car parts to blood vessels and guns. In recent years, chemists in Australia and Europe have jumped into the fray, using the benchtop devices to create small-scale chemical reactors. But the reactors are designed to be integrated into manufacturing plants to improve their efficiency and safety, says Christian Hornung, a chemical engineer and 3D printing expert at CSIRO Manufacturing in Melbourne, Australia.

But Leroy Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, was looking for a stand-alone device. He wanted to broaden the ability of nonspecialists to make drugs and other chemicals, in essence democratizing chemistry in much the same way MP3 players did for music, by turning songs into a digital code that can be played by any device with the right software.

Cronins first stab was a 2012 paper in

Nature Chemistry

in which he and his colleagues described something he called reactionware, 3D-printed chemical reaction vessels containing catalysts and other components needed to carry out specific reactions inside. By simply adding the starting compounds, Cronins team could synthesize a variety of simple compounds, including a ring-containing organic compound called ethylbenzene. At the time, however, Cronin says that critics doubted whether this approach would be useful for making more complex compounds, such as pharmaceuticals. I like annoying people, scientifically, he says. So, he pressed on.
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