Fridge-sized Machine that makes drugs on demand

Current delays and immobility in drug production need to change for top-notch efficiency to be achieved. MIT researchers have had a breakthrough in this endeavor by designing a fridge-sized machine that can produce thousands of doses of prescription medication in a day. The machine can take in a set of ingredients, run necessary chemical reactions, separate, purify intermediate products, and finally pass them down the line.As of now, the model can only produce only four drugs types that are commonly found in a medic’s pack. The four are liquid versions of the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac), diphenhydramine hydrochloride an antihistamine that includes brand names like Benadryl, lidocaine, a widely used local anesthetic, and the sedative diazepam (Valium).

The project’s sponsor and the U.S. Defense Department in part of demonstrating the breath of the new systems selected the four drugs since they are chemically distinct and require different synthesis routes. Making of pharmaceuticals can take months to a year. This is because current methods necessitate multiple chemical steps that in most cases involve several different manufacturing locations. Unexpected breakdown in a plant can result in a substantial supply disruption.

The fridge-sized machine is the most advanced demonstration yet with the potential of new drug making ways that meets sufficient levels of reliability, effectiveness, and flexibility. Portable drug making technology can be very useful in rapid response to local drug shortage or spikes in demands possibly hiked by outbreaks. The technology can also be very helpful to soldiers during wars. They will be in a position to make their on-demand medication without having to wait for batch-manufactured medication that might take long to reach them.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been advocating for new ways to make drugs though they are hesitant to approve continuous-flow manufacturing since it is relatively new. Batch processing will continue though it will start to fade slowly. Currently, Continuous-flow might be used at small scale to speed up aspects of batch processing. The system like MIT’s one can be used to cater for urgent needs that cannot be meet by the traditional method.

FDA spokesperson Christopher Kelly, notes that the ability to precisely monitor the manufacturing process and make a correction in real time is another advantage of continuous production over batch processing. He notes that the industry is over-reliant on end-product testing and in most cases failures are only noted after the whole batch has been made. Continuous-flow technology can also be beneficial in the development of new drugs. For instance, when producing a small volume of medications for clinical trials. The current model is extremely expensive since it necessitate production of a large batch.

The new approach can also offer new opportunities to run certain kinds of reaction including those that require very high temperature or those that produce unstable intermediate products.

Featured image credit:sciencenews

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