Those suffering from ailments such as arthritis, asthma and peptic ulcers will welcome the promise of a personalised pill devised by NUS researchers. Their delivery method releases drugs at different dosages and release rates, simplifying otherwise complicated treatment plans. Among those who would benefit from this system are people requiring drug release in pulses, as is the case with hormones, which need to be in sync with the biological processes of the human body.
“For a long time, personalised medicine has been a mere concept as it was far too complex or expensive to be realised,” said NUS Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Assistant Professor Soh Siow Ling. He developed the tablet fabrication method together with PhD student Ms Sun Yajuan.
Asst Prof Soh explained that the new method is technically simple, relatively inexpensive and versatile. “It can be applied at individualised settings where physicians could produce customised pills on the spot for patients, or in mass production settings by pharmaceutical companies,” he added.
The doctor or pharmacist draws a desired release profile in design software, which then instructs a three-dimensional (3D) printer to fashion a mould for the drug. This mould shapes drug-infused polymers of specific release profiles, which are placed into an impermeable casing. A solution of surface-eroding polymer, which solidifies when cured under UV light, fills the gaps in between. This fully customisable system can create templates for any release profile.
Printing moulds versus tablets mitigates some of the issues inherent in the existing method of layer-by-layer printing of drugs. These limitations include low dosages, non-continuous release profiles and poor durability of the tablet given its quick breakdown. The NUS approach also negates the need for complex math or computer algorithms to construct tablets of different geometries, enabling the fabrication of more complex profiles.
In the future, clinics, pharmacies and hospitals could deploy this cost-effective method due to its simplicity and affordability, said the researchers. It utilises commercial 3D printers, technology that is becoming increasingly affordable, and cost-effective materials.
The NUS team is in talks with a multinational corporation to commercialise its invention. It is also investigating the possibility of combining different polymer-based components for improved effectiveness.
See press release.