DrugPrinter: print any drug instantly #3DxMedicine #3DThursday #3DPrinting
Check out this journal paper proposing a 3D-printer-style machine designed to print any drug instantly, at the chemical level, taking its inspiration from a Chinese egg-cake oven (above). DrugPrinter: print any drug instantly:
In drug discovery, de novo potent leads need to be synthesized for bioassay experiments in a very short time. Here, a protocol using DrugPrinter to print out any compound in just one step is proposed. The de novo compound could be designed by cloud computing big data. The computing systems could then search the optimal synthesis condition for each bond–bond interaction from databases. The compound would then be fabricated by many tiny reactors in one step. This type of fast, precise, without byproduct, reagent-sparing, environmentally friendly, small-volume, large-variety, nanofabrication technique will totally subvert the current view on the manufactured object and lead to a huge revolution in pharmaceutical companies in the very near future….
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I am a medicinal chemist and want to point out that this article is pretty much pure fantasy, and the author of the paper has apparently agreed to withdraw it. I think that the simplest and most devastating critique of this approach is as follows: it takes 6.02 x 10^23 molecules to make a mole of your test compound. Even if you take a conservative approach and guess that you need a picomole of your test compound to test it, that still requires 10^11 synthetic operations, each of which takes a finite amount of time. Even at, say 100 synthetic operations per second, that would take you almost 32 years to make a single compound to test.
Hearing the real-world complications behind this rather surprising proposal makes a lot of sense — it is still fun to take a look at his project to see some interesting directions that might be explored in the distant future. (And if not this route, at least asking some interesting questions about production methods.)
Having worked with robotic synthesis systems in the context of just producing a specific polypeptide chain (for targeting ), there’s a ton of synthetic chemistry just being glossed over… Assuming there was a magical single material for the tubing lines regardless of what elements/precursors are being used which is already fantasy island territory, the amount of a ‘magic’ solvent required to flush the feed lines clean with each ‘ingredient’ switch should make it even more obviously flawed.
In reality, starting from pure periodically tabled elements, there’s almost no way to find a universal material to make the feed lines from, and you’re going to need multiple solvents, and you’re going to have to put in some serious design time and forethought prior to purchase.