Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a refrigerator-sized machine capable of churning out thousands of doses of prescription medication in a day.
The machine, which turns raw material into pharmaceutical-grade medication, has the potential to eventually allow on-demand, on-site, drug production. It could prove invaluable in special circumstances, such as on the battlefield, during epidemics, after natural disasters, or in cases where a drug is needed for a rare medical condition — all places where traditional drug manufacturing plants have been ineffective.
For now, the system is limited to making liquid versions of four common prescription drugs used as antidepressants (Prozac), antihistamines (Benadryl), sedatives (Valium) and anesthetic (Lidocaine). But the researchers say that drug list can be expanded.
"We're also working on producing tablets, which are more complicated to manufacture than liquid drug formulations," said Klavs Jensen, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT who worked on the study. He added that other technologies such as 3D ‘bioprinters’ could help make it happen.
Going deeper into visionary territory, a future could not be far away when people would use their smartphone app and a microwave-sized device to cook up an antibiotic for their feverish toddler, in consultation with a doctor.