For many, 3D printing is still a fairly new technology. Truth of the matter is, 3D printing has been a thriving industry for 10+ years now, and innovators like Sharon Flank, are asking what it can do for healthcare. 

Much like the original printing press was a gateway to an explosion of technological advancements, Sharon helps us understand the promise of 3D printing for accessible personalized medicine. 

In order for physicians to treat as many patients as possible, modern-day medicine has become a standardized practice. Unfortunately, illness, symptoms and the patients themselves are far from being standard. This approach then results in a long trial-and-error process that often causes more harm than relief.

And this future may be closer than we think - the first 3D printed prescription drug to treat epilepsy is already available on the U.S. market from Aprecia Pharmaceuticals. Levetiracetam (Spritam) was approved by FDA in 2015 as a treatment for partial onset seizures, myoclonic seizures, and primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures. 

What are the challenges ahead?

From prototyping prosthetics to producing functional respirators during the current pandemic, personal health has a lot to gain from 3D-printing technology. But can it be leveraged safely on the molecular level print medicine? Of course, quality control is a concern. 

As Sharon quotes, in this work we “consider variance as something to avoid”, we need to ensure the drugs printed are the same every time. Sharon reasons that we have the tools required to breach this “quality hurdle” as pharmaceutical companies already use a light-powered technique to check drugs. These technologies are not becoming compact enough to fit inside 3D-printers, welcoming a new era of personalized medicine. 

For Sharon, personalized medicine is not a matter of if but when, and how soon. Tune in to hear more about the possibilities when big data and medicine collide: 

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