Additive Manufacturing – Enabling custom bioprocess solutions
Additive manufacturing (AM), popularly known as 3D printing, has been rapidly gaining momentum over the past decade. One of the primary reasons is the much broader design freedom when compared to other techniques. AM also allowed industries to prototype solutions rapidly and in some cases produce replacement parts on demand. The advantages of AM drove interest and adoption of the technology, which fuelled further development of the field. Novel 3D printing platforms, working with a broader range of materials, and offering new strategies in production scalability, put AM forward as a manufacturing solution in specific applications and industries as an alternative to e.g. injection moulding.
The pharmaceutical industry can benefit greatly from the opportunities offered by AM. The first technology that comes to mind are bioprinters, however at this moment they remain primarily used in (academic) research. Printing living cells in combination with biomaterials to form tissues is an exciting and innovative approach, but more time is needed before solutions can be offered to patients. Interestingly, small molecule drugs could also undergo a revolution driven by additive manufacturing. The ability to personalize drugs in terms of their size, active compound dose and release profile, can potentially improve results for patients. Some solutions have already been approved by the FDA.
Meanwhile, highly advanced 3D printers help drive the evolution towards more personalised medicine in other areas as well. Orthopaedics already benefits greatly from AM for hip, shoulder, spinal, cranio-maxillofacial and other applications. Customized implants(1) are already being produced for patients across the world, improving treatment outcomes for many. For example, one of our partners, 3D Systems, is very actively involved in the delivery of personalised medical devices. This is partially enabled by the availability of 3D printing platforms using various materials, ranging from polymers, through ceramics to metals.
However, at the onset of the age of cell and gene therapies, and personalised medicine more broadly, other challenges also need to be addressed. In particular, the production of cell-based therapies proves to be challenging in different ways. The diversity of cells as a material, even within one medicinal product, calls for closed, controlled and customisable environments, to be able to robustly handle the inherent variability in the starting material. Therefore, Antleron's ambitious vision is built on its‘Factory of the future’ concept. Using our innovation toolbox, we are able to design and develop microbioreactors, or small factories, for cells to thrive in and transform into living therapies. This is enabled by the design flexibility associated with 3D printing. Additionally, the controlled manner in which a 3D printed object is produced translates into highly reproducible components, a critical aspect for optimal cell production and introduction into regulated GMP environments.
In other areas, such as lab-on-chip and diagnostics Antleron’s approach has proven to be a valuable development tool to fast-track solutions to the market. The increasing printing resolution of available printers allows for extending the application reach into microfluidics, a key enabler in the development of innovative diagnostic, in-vitro devices and lab-on-chip devices. The ability to generate custom channel geometries, reduced consumption of samples and increase in throughput are some of the advantages of applying microfluidics in diagnostic devices.(2) Antleron’s in silico solutions, such as CFD simulations, help to build novel solutions more effectively. Coupled with the rapid turnaround of production cycles, we can iterate designs quickly, providing more value to our partners.
AM is at the core of Antleron’s innovative technologies toolbox and many of our bioprocess solutions for the cell & gene and diagnostics sectors. Not only does it allow us to rapidly iterate concepts and provide answers to our partners, but it also enables our creative team of engineers to design custom solutions for personalized therapies with more freedom, unconstrained by traditional manufacturing methods.
Reach out to the Antleron team to discuss how additively manufactured solutions can help to fast track your research pipeline up to the patient.
(1) Dall’Ava L, Hothi H, Di Laura A, Henckel J, Hart A. 3D Printed Acetabular Cups for Total Hip Arthroplasty: A Review Article. Metals. 2019; 9(7):729. https://doi.org/10.3390/met9070729
(2) Solanki S, Pandey CM, Gupta RK, Malhotra BD. Emerging Trends in Microfluidics Based Devices. Biotechnol J. 2020;15(5):e1900279. https://doi.org/10.1002/biot.201900279