Doctors might soon be able to use a portable device to design single doses of biopharmaceutical medications on demand. This method would allow the treatment of diseases like diabetes and cancer to become a lot quicker.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are behind the portable production system, which was developed with funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The army got involved with the project hoping they could use the device on the battlefield, as well as in remote areas. The portable device could provide doctors with the possibility of producing treatments right at the point of care.
Manufacturing biopharmaceutical products usually require “single biologic-producing cell lines cultivated at large scales,” which makes it almost impossible to create these types of drugs in short time frames.
Details of the system have been published in the journal Nature Communications. According to the MIT researchers, it can produce two biologic medicines from a single yeast strain, called Pichia pastoris.
The production system was first announced in March of this year when the team of researchers showed off a device that could be “used as an emergency backup for drug production or employed in situations where medications are not readily available,” as they put it.
Bioengineering Professor Luke Lee of the University of California Berkely said that the portable platform offers an alternative for biomanufacturing, allowing doctors to produce personalized therapeutics. The production system can create single-dose production in less than a day with reduced infrastructure.
The strain of yeast, which grows at very high speeds when exposed to carbon, “expressed recombinant human growth hormone when exposed to estrogen β-estradiol and expressed the protein interferon when exposed to methanol.”
As one can imagine, the potential applications for this kind of device are numerous; it can be used for anything – treatments on a battlefield requiring immediate care or prevention of a disease outbreak in a remote village.
Tim Lu, an associate professor of biological engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science at MIT, put it rather simply: “Imagine you were on Mars or in a remote desert, without access to a full formulary, you could program the yeast to produce drugs on demand locally.”
Image Source: Stroke Care International