Manufacturing has been revolutionized by technology. However, pharmaceutical manufacturers are only just beginning to see the potential of innovative product creation. The potential benefits of technology in healthcare are vast, and revolutionary techniques are clearing the way for a cost-effective, efficient and tailored approach to the production of medicinal products.
One study suggests that the cost of bringing a new drug to market is upwards of $985 million. This is then reflected in the cost paid by insurance companies and end-users. The need to accelerate technology to drive these costs down is essential and innovation is key. In this article, we look at the technologies which are helping to revolutionize pharmaceutical manufacturing.
3D printing innovations
While medicine is no stranger to the marvel of 3D printing, pharmaceutical manufacturing is yet to hop on the trend. 3D-printed teeth and prosthetics are already commonly used in the health industry to assist patients. However, there is a distinct lack of approved 3D-printed pharmaceutical products in the US marketplace.
Medicines can be produced through 3D printing. This has interesting benefits, including unique tailoring to a specific patient’s needs.
In 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first medicine that had been produced by 3D printing. The precision of the machine allowed manufacturers to create a pill with a high drug load. In one dose, patients were able to receive 1,000 mg of levetiracetam. This was a revolutionary treatment for sufferers of epileptic seizures. However, since then, there has been limited progress which may be due to the high cost of this method.
Whilst having a 3D printer in your local pharmacy is a futuristic concept, the idea of additive pharmaceutical manufacturing is driving the industry towards a future where everyone’s ailments can be individually tackled.
The pharmaceutical industry looks beyond itself for inspiration when innovating. Of course, automation has played a large part in manufacturing for almost a century. For example, in vehicle manufacturing, automation is used to reduce costs and better perform intricate tasks. Now, pharma businesses are looking to do just the same.
Previously, scientists have become curbed by the manual task of individual genome testing. However, automation is allowing manufacturers to access a huge amount of data, enabling them to create unique molecular profiles of their customers and provide them with personalized care.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that involves machines having the ability to perform tasks and demonstrate behaviors commonly associated with human beings. It is common across many sectors. In general manufacturing, it can collate data and calculate the most efficient processes. This then allows it to create products and optimize the entire process. In pharmaceutical manufacturing, the process of medicinal engineering can be improved through digital reform.
Machine learning, with access to patient data, can analyze individuals’ profiles and compare drug efficacy and demand. By doing this, manufacturers can adapt their medicines to create improved predictions on of the use of specific medicines and their effectiveness in particular individuals (pharmacogenomics).
The technology can be exploited to enable virtual screening of drug compounds as an alternative to more traditional methods such as phenotypic, fragment and target-based screening. By predicting the outcomes of these early-stage drug discovery experiments, it is possible to predict which drug compounds hold the most promise and warrant further exploration and development. Further on in the drug development pipeline, it can also help pharmaceutical manufacturers which projects they should pursue, and it can help them to calculate costs and source ingredients for manufacturing, in anticipation of scale up processes.
The drug development industry is constantly evolving and innovating in efforts to produce new drugs for a variety of indications and technologies such as AI and automation are a major factor driving these developments.
Andrew Richardson is a copywriter working with Electrix International.