Researchers at the University of Michigan are working on a new technology that could potentially allow clinicians the ability to print multiple drugs onto a dissolvable strip, a microneedle patch, or another type of dosing device. This technique would allow for custom-dosed medications which the researchers hope will increase adherence, particularly for those who have to take multiple drugs per day.

“A doctor or pharmacist can choose any number of medications, which the machine would combine into a single dose,” said professor Max Shtein, lead author of the study. “The machine could be sitting in the back of the pharmacy or even in a clinic.”

The printer is being developed through a collaboration of departments at the University of Michigan. The researchers have already shown that the printed medication can destroy cancer cells in the lab as effectively as medication delivered by traditional means. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

This new technology was developed using ‘vapor jet printing’, where the active ingredient is evaporated and then combined with a stream of heated, inert gas like nitrogen. The medication then travels with the gas and then condenses on a cooled surface into a thin crystalline film.

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“Pharma companies have libraries of millions of compounds to evaluate, and one of the first tests is solubility,” said Shtein. “About half of new compounds fail this test and are ruled out. Organic vapor jet printing could make some of them more soluble, putting them back into the pipeline.”

In the long-term, the researchers see vapor jet printing being used in mass pharmaceutical production. However, in the shorter-term, they see the technology as a method pharmaceutical companies can utilize to speed up clinical testing. 

“One of the major challenges facing pharmaceutical companies is speed to clinical testing in humans,” said Gregory Amidon, a research professor in the U-M College of Pharmacy and an author on the paper. “This technology offers up a new approach to accelerate the evaluation of new medicines.”

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