Engineers build fridge-sized machine that can create an array of prescription drugs

04/03/2016 - 15:57

Amy Norton

Scientists have created a compact machine that can churn out thousands of doses of prescription medication in a day -- putting the capabilities of a drug-manufacturing plant into a device the size of a kitchen refrigerator.

Experts said the advance could eventually allow on-the-spot drug production in special circumstances -- on the battlefield, during epidemics, after natural disasters, or in cases where a drug is needed for a rare medical condition, for instance.

The research, detailed in the April 1 issue of Science, took a new approach to producing prescription drugs -- which, right now, is often an inefficient, time-consuming process.


Ref: On-demand continuous-flow production of pharmaceuticals in a compact, reconfigurable system. Science (1 April 2016) | DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf1337


Pharmaceutical manufacturing typically uses batch processing at multiple locations. Disadvantages of this approach include long production times and the potential for supply chain disruptions. As a preliminary demonstration of an alternative approach, we report here the continuous-flow synthesis and formulation of active pharmaceutical ingredients in a compact, reconfigurable manufacturing platform. Continuous end-to-end synthesis in the refrigerator-sized [1.0 meter (width) × 0.7 meter (length) × 1.8 meter (height)] system produces sufficient quantities per day to supply hundreds to thousands of oral or topical liquid doses of diphenhydramine hydrochloride, lidocaine hydrochloride, diazepam, and fluoxetine hydrochloride that meet U.S. Pharmacopeia standards. Underlying this flexible plug-and-play approach are substantial enabling advances in continuous-flow synthesis, complex multistep sequence telescoping, reaction engineering equipment, and real-time formulation.