Last updated November 11th 2018

Israeli scientists are set to unveil new technology on Wednesday that could soon signal a new era of drug manufacturing and delivery: an innovative platform for 3D printing personalized medicine.

The technology, developed by scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will be presented Wednesday at the 2nd annual 3D Printing and Beyond conference, set to gather over 700 leading local and international academics and industry experts. Based on custom-printed 3D hydrogels with delayed release characteristics, the platform was developed through the collaboration of Professor Shlomo Magdassi, the head of the Hebrew University’s 3D and Functional Printing Center, as well as a member of the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and Institute of Chemistry, and Dr. Ofra Benny, a leading researcher at Hebrew University’s Institute for Drug Research.

The cutting-edge drug fabrication technology enables a complex design of drug delivery systems, currently unavailable in conventional pharmaceutical manufacturing techniques, and will allow for printing customized and personalized medications out of hydrogels which can expand, change shape, and activate on a delayed schedule, said Yissum, the Technology Transfer Company of The Hebrew University, in a statement.

Besides the ability to achieve complex structures and release profiles of drugs, this novel platform has the ability to personalize prescription medicines, allowing for doctors to accurately tailor the exposure and dosage levels for individual patients.

An illustrative photo of a doctor holding different types of pills. <a href="http://dep.ph/v/3jenyy-bsat0" target="_blank">Photo via Deposit Photos</a>

An illustrative photo of a doctor holding different types of pills. Photo via Deposit Photos

Professor Magdassi tells NoCamels that with 3D printing of hydrogels, molecules that are soluble in water, scientists can improve the performance of the drug through its delivery. For example, “the hydrogel once ingested can be designed to swell, releasing two, or three, or four drugs at a time [or with a delay] or it can be designed not to swell, depending on what we are trying to achieve.”

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“Imagine that you can swallow a hydrogel and the volume is designed to expand, for example to reduce eating [and caloric intake],” he joked.

“The drug can be tailored to the patient because of the unique shape or structure of the hydrogel and/or its release behavior,” Professor Magdassi explains.

Currently, there is one 3D-printed drug on the market. In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Spritam, a 3D-printed powdered drug in pill form for the treatment of epileptic seizures, designed to dissolve faster than other pills.

Professor Magdassi says the scientists have proof-of-concept for their hydrogel capsules and will now be looking for more funding to move forward with the technology. Work currently under way, he explains, on research for 4D printing of drugs – that is 3D printed drugs that can then change shape or structure following a “trigger,” which can be either light, electricity, or other outside catalysts.

These “academic ideas have real-life applications,” he emphasizes.

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Yissum CEO and President Dr. Yaron Daniely said in a statement that “Professor Magdassi and Dr. Benny’s research is an excellent example of the kind of interdisciplinary transformational inventions that originate from the Hebrew University. This technology is bringing us closer to a future in which the medical field can offer personalized, patient-centered care.”

The 3D Printing and Beyond conference will also look at other innovations in the fields of electronics, defense-related technologies, 3D printed food, 3D printing for the automotive field, and more.

Professor Magdassi tells NoCamels that another exciting development in the sector is in the 3D printing of wood, which he called “revolutionary,” as it would allow for the re-purposing of wood waste to print furniture, flooring, thermal insulation parts, and other complex structures.

The conference is organized by Magdassi and Dr. Michael Layani of the 3D and Functional Printing Center at the Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is sponsored by the Jerusalem Development Authority, Yissum, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.