This little grey box is about to revolutionise medicine for the poorest people

Support us and go ad-free

During epidemics, life-saving drugs sometimes run out faster than they can be supplied. Thanks to a new fridge-sized drug synthesis machine that produces medicines on the fly, this age-old problem could be a thing of the past.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed “On-demand continuous-flow production of pharmaceuticals in a compact, reconfigurable system”, as published last week in Science.

Think of it as a portable “3D printer for drugs”.

MIT-pharma

Image via MIT

Currently, the transportable machine can deliver four different types of drug: an anti-histamine, a type of local anesthetic, the anti-anxiety drug diazepam (better known as Valium), and Prozac, a widely-used antidepressant.

Initially, it might look a little like the machine will only help to line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies, who could potentially use the machine to monopolize drug supply during health crises.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But it has obvious great benefit to patients. Production takes only hours to days. One thousand doses of a given drug can be delivered in 24 hours. And the drugs meet US Pharmacopeia standards, which means that they are produced to established safety standards.

The machine could easily be re-configured to deliver other types of drug, including anti-virals or antibiotics, as needed during a health crisis or natural disaster.

It works using a technique called “flow processing” that can be performed continuously all in one place – this is different from traditional “batch processing”, which has to be performed over several locations and can take weeks to months.

As the report points out:

Pharmaceutical manufacturing typically uses batch processing at multiple locations. Disadvantages of this approach include long production times and the potential for supply chain disruptions.

The machine could particularly benefit isolated areas, or areas where supply chains are disrupted or storage facilities are limited, where it could be re-configured to produce drugs at the touch of a button as and when needed.

The team of scientists now plans on making the machine even smaller and capable of producing more complex drugs.

Featured image via Flickr / Frank Boston

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed