3D Printing comes to medicine 2

3d Printer picture by osde8info

3d Printer picture by osde8info

If you’re new to the concept of 3D printing, the idea probably sounds like something out of Star Wars.  What is a 3D print? Well, just like as a traditional printer prints ink on a page to represent a picture or typed letter, a 3D image is a 3 dimensional replica of something else. 3D prints are simply physical objects made from a digital model.

For example, one could print a small figurine or a door stop for that matter.

3D printing has been around for a few years, but its about to go mainstream. Another cool facet to 3D printing is that the prices on the printers is dropping signficantly.  Right now, the technology is used in the fields of jewelry, footwear, architecture, engineering and construction and even dental and medical industries.

To get a feel of how a young student in Phoenix is using 3D printers, take 5 minutes to watch this Ignite talk:

As one can imagine, 3D printing is democratizing design and distribution in an amazing way. The same change has started to carry over to the medical and clinical field as well…

Imagine being emailed the instructions to build biological molecules on a 3D biological printer? DNA jockey, Craig Venter is headed down this path and has captured the attention of others alike. Such a device could significantly reduce the long cycle times (months to days) it takes to distribute new vaccines to patients, an initiative DARPA is looking to solve; new molecule details could theoretically be emailed directly to the dispensaries (i.e. pharmacies) of the vaccines.

Perhaps the same notion could be applied to clinical development. Take for instance clinical trial materials. Could such a device be made precise and accurate enough to reproduce medications used in clinical trials? It would certainly create a strong case for being a few steps closer to a just-in-time model, reducing the time it takes to get innovative medications into the hands of patients who need them the most.

Meanwhile, San Diego-based biotech startup, Organovo, aims to produce human tissue using human cells as the 3D printer’s ink. Theoretically, the bio printer would produce a tissue environment that allows candidate drugs to be tested. Innovation is inevitable. As Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”


  1. Pingback: 3D Printing Comes to Medicine… and to Lilly COI! « lillycoi

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