What does HHU's involvement in research look like?
Quodbach: At HHU we are particularly concerned with process development. We take the new polymers and see how well they can be extruded with a twin-screw extruder, what the properties of the filaments are, what the release properties for the active ingredients are and how they can be influenced. We are also developing models to be able to precisely control and predict the release of active substances.
In addition, there are other issues: We are looking at the traceability of medicines in order to prevent and make it more difficult to counterfeit medicines.
In another sub-project, we are looking at how thermolabile active ingredients are degraded during the extrusion process, where the heat load is greatest, and how it can be reduced.
What are the next steps until 3D-printed medicines are ready for the market?
Quodbach: Here we have to distinguish between different application scenarios: The possibility of printing medicines directly on a doctor's prescription could become reality in the next few years with appropriate printers. One challenge will be to familiarise manufacturers with the new technology and to communicate the advantages. One advantage, apart from ensuring the quality of medicines, is that in many cases workers can be freed up for other activities.
If you think of industrial production, other perspectives arise. Because there, individual prescriptions cannot simply be produced on prescription. So far, there is no legal basis that allows for the authorisation of individually produced medicines. What is more realistic in the industrial scenario is the production of clinical trial samples for conducting clinical trials. Before a drug is approved, it goes through a rigorous testing procedure for which dosage forms with different dosages are needed. For such applications, smaller batches are usually needed, but in larger numbers. Pharmaceutical 3D printing is perfectly suited for this purpose.