Medical industry advances towards more efficient, customized 3D printed vaccinations

Dec 25, 2017 | By Tess

At a recent health conference in Bilbao, Spain about advancements in vaccinations, a number of professionals cited the potentials of 3D printing for advancing the efficiency of administering as well as customizing vaccines.

The conference, called “Advances in vaccines,” was hosted by the Association of Microbiology and Health (AMYS), as well as the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Immunology, Microbiology, and Parasitology from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

The event brought together experts from the field of vaccinations to speak about the current state of the sector and directions vaccination-related research is headed in the future. 3D printing, unsurprisingly, was a key topic of discussion.

One speaker, Pedro Alsina, from the Institutional Relations of Sanofi, spoke about how 3D printing will enable the production of customized vaccines, which can be tailored to the recipient’s genetic makeup.

Additionally, he said that it will soon be possible to 3D print vaccines inside structures that can either be administered externally (say, a patch stuck to the skin), or orally (as tablets or even inside fruits and vegetables, for instance). Having alternative methods for vaccinations other than needles could make it easier to deploy them to regions where medical staff are in short supply.

Research groups from around the globe are currently working on various methods for 3D printing vaccinations. At the University of California, Berkeley, for example, a team is developing a 3D printed device called MucoJet, which could allow people to administer their own vaccinations by using a pressurized system to shoot a stream of the vaccine into their inner cheek tissue.

In MIT’s laboratories, engineers are developing an alternative method which would use micro-scale 3D printing to make small “SEAL” holders for vaccinations which could be implanted with a single injection and release drug or vaccines doses over a defined period of time.

3D printed MucoJet device

These projects, and many more like them, suggest a promising future for vaccinations. Still, the medical system will need to adapt to handling faster developments in the field, said one expert at the conference.

“At present, the manufacturing of vaccines is a long and complex process due to the nature of the raw materials (microorganisms) and the quality control processes that occupy 70% of the total manufacturing time,” said Alsina, who suggests that vaccination regulations should be simplified and “harmonized” across all countries in order to increase innovation in the field.

Another key goal addressed at the conference was the development of more efficient vaccines, especially for such sicknesses as the flu. “We must work to achieve a more immunogenic injection in the most vulnerable people and for the universal flu vaccine so that it is not necessary to go through the process once a year,” said Dr. Ramón Cisterna, a professor of microbiology and the president of AMYS.

He also stated that the medical community advancing towards the development of vaccinations not only for infections, but also for tumor-based or metabolic diseases.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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3D Printed wheelchairs and other advances announced

A key advance with 3-D printing is the ability to create medical devices tailored to particular patients, a move away from generic, mass-produced items (a topic that trends high on Twitter.) One example is the 3-D printed wheelchair. Models designed with individual patients in mind are being offered by designer Benjamin Hubert, who has set up a company called Layer.

Layer’s new product is the “made-to-measure” GO wheelchair, which is adaptable to different forms of disabilities and for wheelchair bound patients with different lifestyle needs. The chairs are created from biometric maps of each patient. The data is inputted into a computer, and the digital conversion is used to devise a program for the 3-D printer.

The wheelchairs also offer several innovations designed to help the user. These include a seat rendered from a semi-transparent resin and thermoplastic polyurethane plastic. This is to give improved shock-absorption. A second feature is that the foot bay is manufactured from titanium.

Further features are shown in the following video:

In terms of new applications, Derek Mathers, who works for Worrell Design, outlines the following vision as to the promises that 3-D printing presents for the future of healthcare:

“A village in Haiti needs to provide umbilical cord clamps for pregnant mothers, but cannot afford a 10,000-unit minimum purchase order. An orthopedic surgeon, sick of long, arduous ACL repair procedures identifies the need for a complex tool to simplify and accelerate surgery. A Chinese man diagnosed with a rare sacral cancer needs a bespoke, durable implant to replace the tumorous bone matter once removed.”

Another 3-D health innovation is a cranial/craniofacial device made by BioArchitects. This device is intended to be used to repair defects in non-load-bearing bones in the head and face. The implant is fixed to the skull using self-tapping titanium screws.

Meanwhile, 3-D printing is attracting considerable investment. For example, Google has invested $100 million in a printer called Carbon. This printer makes use of ultra high-performance urethanes. Furthermore, Hewlett Packard has divided its $110 billion business into two divisions, with one looking at 3-D printing applications.