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April 19, 2016 | 12:08
Portable Machine Delivers Drugs on Demand
Portable Machine Delivers Drugs on Demand
Chemical engineers from MIT have developed a portable machine that synthesizes pharmaceuticals on demand. The machine could alleviate drug shortages during unexpected demand spikes, and serve communities in remote areas.

The conventional method of manufacturing pharmaceuticals is batch processing. The production process is divided up in separate steps, which often take place in different plants. This production method is rather inflexible and not well-suited to scale up production rapidly in response to a sudden disease outbreak.

“Think of this as the emergency backup for pharmaceutical manufacturing,” Allan Myerson, Professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT who helped develop the system, told MIT news. “The purpose is not to replace traditional manufacturing; it’s to provide an alternative for these special situations.”

Myerson and his colleagues published a paper about their invention in the peer-reviewed Science magazine (paywalled). The research was funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Disaster relief
The drug dispensing machine can provide on-demand in remote communities that have no access to pharmaceutical storage facilities, and supplement disaster relief efforts. Klavs Jensen, MIT Chemical Engineering Professor and part of the research team said: “The goal of this project was to build a small-scale, portable unit that was completely integrated, so you could imagine being able to ship it anywhere. And as long as you had the right chemicals, you could make pharmaceuticals.”
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