In a variation on synthetic pharmaceuticals, Dr. Martin D. Burke and a team from the University of Illinois have come up with a way of 3D printing molecules. They’re focusing on antifungal medication to start with, but the technology has incredible potential.
Yes, this is more about synthesis than 3D printing, but it’s a promising breakthrough. Being able to synthesise new molecules quickly and easily is 21st century R&D. From the presser:
A new molecule-making machine could do for chemistry what 3-D printing did for engineering: Make it fast, flexible and accessible to anyone. Chemists at the University of Illinois, led by chemistry professor and medical doctor Martin D. Burke, built the machine to assemble complex small molecules at the click of a mouse, like a 3-D printer at the molecular level. The automated process has the potential to greatly speed up and enable new drug development and other technologies that rely on small molecules.
“Dr. Burke’s research has yielded a significant advance that helps make complex small molecule synthesis more efficient, flexible and accessible,” said Miles Fabian of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partially funded the research. “It is exciting to think about the impact that continued advances in these directions will have on synthetic chemistry and life science research.”
Another article at Chemical and Engineering News has more detail on the process and the nature of the chemical bonds being employed.
I’m amazed. I mean, it’s one thing to think about manufacturing new bio-plastics, but this is simply stunning tech. Together with what we’re learning about proteins and DNA, by using this technology together with Open Sourced medical research humanity could come up with individual treatments for any number of things. Not to mention eliminating any number of side effects that kill thousands of people annually.
You’d think Australia would be funding science and education at this time. Whose interest does it serve to castrate such endeavours while the rest of the world is working on automating synthesis of pharmaceuticals, recycling household plastics for 3D printing or liquid metal transformers? It doesn’t seem very well thought out.