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Manufacture Drug Delivery, Small Molecules

Spray It Again, Sam

With extensive experience in vapor jet printing small molecular organic electronic materials, a team from the University of Michigan led by Max Shtein (professor of materials science and engineering) has more recently recognized that the technology could have potential in small-molecule drugs (1). By thermally evaporating an API into a stream of inert gas and spraying the vapor onto a cool substrate, the technique can create a crystalline film of API. The research team has already tested a variety of APIs, including caffeine, paracetamol, ibuprofen, tamoxifen, BAY 11-7082 and fluorescein.

“Low solubility results in a significant number of candidate molecules being rejected before it is known if they are effective at the cellular level,” says Shtein, before pointing out a striking benefit of his solvent-free solution to the problem: “The resulting morphologies from vapor jet printing tend to dissolve in water much faster (10 times or more) without changing the molecular composition.”

The potential of vapor jet printing doesn’t end with solubility. The technique can print drug compounds directly onto drug delivery devices, such as patches, ingestible strips, microneedles, and bandages, opening up other avenues to explore.

But would such a novel technology be readily embraced by the pharma industry? Shtein points out that the first printed drug was approved in 2015, and that there is much interest in the field. “We are in the midst of a revolution in the pharmaceutical industry, so the timing is fantastic for the deployment of organic vapor jet printing technology. The FDA is also encouraging a transition towards more personalized medicine and printing technology could be used to create custom-dosed medications.”

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  1. O Shalev et al., “Printing of small molecular medicines from the vapor phase”, Nat Commun, 8, 711 (2017). PMID: 28955031. Available at:
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