How we 3D print your whole prescription into one pill

Fred Parietti
Jul 18 · 5 min read
Imagine that your whole multi-drug prescription arrived into a single, small daily capsule.

We’ve all seen those pill organizers in our relatives’ houses, filled to the brim with daily prescription drugs. We’ve all worried as our loved ones struggle following their overcomplicated pill schedules. We’ve seen the disheartened look on their faces when they bring home yet another prescription, hoping that the dosage won’t lead to side effects. It does not have to be that way.

The future of medicine is personalized.

Today’s patients and doctors understand that every human body is unique and needs unique therapies — no two patients are the same. Unfortunately, drugs are still delivered through an overwhelming litany of mass-produced, one-size-fits-all pills. We need the opposite approach: a single, customized daily capsule tailored around the needs of each patient. At Multiply Labs, we use advanced robotic systems to manufacture these personalized capsules.

Drowning in pills

Every year, 4.25 billion retail prescriptions are filled in the US. 33% of them contain at least 4 drugs. These combination therapies are needed to treat common chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Since pharmaceutical products are mass-manufactured in standardized doses, patients are forced to take multiple pills, often at different times throughout the day. This makes it really difficult to follow the prescriptions (only 50% of chronic patients adhere to treatment recommendations), resulting in lower efficacy for the therapies. Drugs don’t work if patients can’t take them!

Mass-manufactured pills also cause more side effects. For example, if a drug is available only in 50 mg or 100 mg pills, a doctor is forced to prescribe one of the two. But what if the correct dosage for a patient was 65 mg? Using a standard pill will lead to insufficient or excessive dosing.

We believe that patients (and doctors) should expect every therapy to come in a single daily capsule, containing all the prescribed drugs in the right dosage.

One pill to rule them all

Multiply Labs capsules contain several compartments — each releasing its content independently from the rest of the capsule.

In order to deliver multiple pharmaceutical ingredients, our capsules have a unique structure. A Multiply Labs capsule contains several compartments — not a single cavity, like normal capsules, do. Each compartment behaves like it’s a separate pill, with its walls dissolving and releasing its content independently from the rest of the capsule.

By controlling the thickness of a compartment, we determine when it will release the pharmaceutical ingredients contained inside of it. For example, thin walls mean that the compartment will dissolve within minutes. On the other hand, thick walls will lead to a delayed release of the drug. So the whole medication schedule of a patient (e.g. morning pills, evening pills, etc.) can be programmed into a single, multi-compartment capsule.

The first robotic pharmaceutical factory

Producing single-capsule, personalized therapies on-demand is impossible for traditional mass-manufacturing machinery. The only way to bring personalized pharmaceutical products to all the patients who need them is by using cutting-edge robotic technology.

Multiply Labs’ manufacturing process is entirely run by robots: this system receives an order (a personalized prescription) and then forms that patient’s unique capsules within minutes. The process is divided into two phases: capsule formation, and capsule filling.

Step 1: Capsule formation

We make pharmaceutical capsules via 3D printing (3DP) or injection molding (IM).

The capsule shells are formed using either 3D printing (ideal for small-series batches) or injection molding (best suited for large industrial runs). Even though 3D printing and injection molding are established technologies in many fields — from consumer electronics to automotive manufacturing — they had never been applied to the production of pharmaceutical capsules. The raw materials, for both processes, are pharmaceutical polymers specifically designed for drug delivery.

Step 2: Capsule filling

Multiply Labs’ robotic systems form the capsules, fill them with the right pharmaceutical ingredients, and weight the finished product to ensure its quality.

A separate set of robots deposits into each capsule compartment the mix of pharmaceutical ingredients needed by the patient. No traditional industrial system was able to handle individual prescriptions — they all churn out millions of identical capsules. So, we built our own powder deposition robot. This system is so flexible that it allows us to produce micro-batches (30 capsules each): what a single patient needs in a month.

Robotics also means better product quality. In a standard industrial process, less than 1% of pills are actually tested as they come out of the production line. Our robots check 100% of the products — they measure the weight of all the ingredients that are deposited into every single capsule.

Industrial-scale, local jobs

The pharmaceutical factory of the future is robotic, modular and operates as close as possible to where patients live.

There are millions of patients who are prescribed multi-drug therapies. Providing them with customized capsules requires a manufacturing system that combines flexibility with speed. Multiply Labs’ robotic factory is extremely efficient in forming and filling each patient’s capsules on-demand — an order is completed within minutes.

All our products are made in our facility in San Francisco. The engineers who design the robots and the technicians who maintain them — like the factory itself — must be close to the patients, so the personalized capsules will be delivered as quickly as possible.

This is a case of robots creating jobs that cannot be replaced or outsourced.

Our path forward

Building the first robotic pharmaceutical facility is just the beginning of our journey. We envision a future where it will be inconceivable for patients with complex, chronic diseases to take a bunch of standard pills every single day.

We are working together with established pharma companies to bring to the market widely prescribed generics combinations into a single capsule — stay tuned for upcoming details! We have been invited by the FDA’s Emergent Technology Team to present our robotic systems at AIChE 2019 and IFPAC 2019, two leading pharma manufacturing conferences.

There are millions of patients that will benefit from single-capsule, personalized combination therapies, and we can’t wait to bring our technology to them!

The Multiply Labs Team

PS: we are looking for awesome robotics engineers and pharmaceutical scientists to join our team (apply now at careers@multiplylabs.com!)

Multiply Labs

Multiply Labs makes personalized capsules that contain the entire prescription of a patient. This is possible thanks to our cutting-edge robotic manufacturing systems.

Fred Parietti

Written by

Multiply Labs

Multiply Labs makes personalized capsules that contain the entire prescription of a patient. This is possible thanks to our cutting-edge robotic manufacturing systems.