AIT 'One Pill 3D Printing'

One pill to cure them all? Athlone Institute of Technology researchers working on ‘made to order’ personalised healthcare technology.

Evert Fuenmayor, PhD Candidate, Athlone Institute of Technology

What if there was one ‘magic’ 3-D printed pill patients could take which was capable of combining and releasing medications in the correct quantities and conditions as determined by their own unique genetic profile? That’s the future of healthcare and Athlone IT researchers are busy making it a reality…

For many patients, remembering to take a cocktail of medications – in varying sizes, colours and contexts - can be confusing and overwhelming, ultimately leading to a poorer quality of life and estimated compliance rates of between 50-70%. 

With this in mind, researchers from Athlone Institute of Technology’s Materials Research Institute combined their extensive knowledge of material science, additive manufacturing and injection moulding to ‘fix’ the issue of high pill burden and poor therapeutic compliance. 

Doctoral candidate Evert Fuenmayor and his supervisor Dr Ian Major have developed a blueprint for customisable tablets, capable of combining and releasing drugs in the correct quantities and conditions over a prolonged period of time. 

This drug delivery technology, which can be either ingested orally or sub dermally implanted, can be tailored to the specific needs of the patient as determined by their genetic profile. 

“When we started this research, the idea that 3D printing with polymer could be used to deliver drugs to the body was really novel – no one was doing it,” Evert explained. “What we’ve managed to create is highly personalised, adaptable healthcare technology.” Heralding a new era of modern, highly specialised healthcare, 3-D printing technology has the capacity to help people live longer, healthier lives. 

As Evert worked to perfect the printing 3D technology for tablets he realised that he could change the tablet’s release profile – basically how and when it was delivered - by making small, incremental changes to the settings on his 3-D printer.  “With as little as two clicks, I could make it so that the tablet could last three days in the body or six hours - it just depended on the needs of the patient.” 

“We’re still learning about how different people react to different drugs and dosages and therapy approaches so while we’re not there just yet in terms of making this a reality, this is where medicine dispensing is going and what we’re hoping for.”