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Spoonful of Tech

We highlight the top 3 emerging technologies in the world of pharma. Find out more about trends such as 3D cell modelling, CRISPR and 3D biodegradable microneedles.


Being able to visualise the workings of a living cell in real-time and how exactly it responds to specific diseases in the body remains a challenge. Even though advancements have been made in microscopy and cellular staining, these resources offer limited information. Now, researchers at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence have constructed, and made freely available, the first 3D model of a human hiPSC — making it possible to visualise how all the components of a cell interact. This democratising cell biology tool will enable researchers to look at the effects of cancer and other diseases on a cell. In addition, by feeding the technology with pre-existing data and images of cancerous cells, for example, they will be able to determine how individual components of the cell are affected and make advancements in tailoring treatment to individual cases.


The biotech company, Mammoth Biosciences, is aiming to bring CRISPR out of the lab and into the everyday home with its DIY diagnosis kit. CRISPR is most famously known as a gene-editing tool; however, at its core, it really is “biology’s search engine”, said Trevor Martin, CEO, Mammoth Biosciences, in an interview. By testing a sample of a subject’s blood, urine, or saliva, the CRISPR kit enables detection of specific sequences of DNA or RNA that are likely to indicate the presence of a specific disease. If picked up commercially, the product could replace the current home diagnosis kit of Google and save many individuals from worrying about the multitude of diseases they self-diagnose with on the internet.


It will come as good news to those who have a fear of needles that a team from the University of Texas at Dallas have developed 3D biodegradable microneedles for transdermal small molecule drug delivery. The needles, with tips as small as 1 μm (to put that into perspective, the width of a single human hair ranges from 10–200 μm), are fabricated by fused deposition modelling with polylactic acid, a renewable, biodegradable, thermoplastic material that causes the needles to break off after breaching the skin and enables the substance to be released over time. The revolutionary construction method of 3D printing continues to produce healthcare products of leading calibre. Watch this dimension!

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