Prospect of printing medicines at home



DUBAI // Fast-paced developments in 3-D printing technology could result in patients making their own prescription drugs to treat chronic medical conditions at home.

The latest innovations were on show at the Dubai Health Forum, a two-day conference showcasing what technologies patients can expect to benefit from in the near future.

Although regulation and accessibility remain the key hurdles in bringing 3-D printing to the market, doctors at Dubai Health Authority are confident they can soon take the technology into people’s homes.

It would also probably bring down the cost of providing expensive cancer care drugs that have soared in price and are unaffordable to some healthcare providers.

FabRx, a UK-based biotech company focused on developing 3-D printing technology for making pharmaceuticals and medical devices, presented the latest developments in personalised medicines at the forum.

“Our idea is not to scale up the process, but to bring this into hospitals, clinics and at home,” said the company’s director of development Alvaro Goyanes.

“Eventually, we see prescriptions being sent to people’s homes so they can print their own medication. Patients will be able to print the right dose, or combination of drugs, for themselves.”

Pharmacists will need to develop the correct dosage for each filament used to print off each batch of pills. The filament is the raw material used by printers to create the final product. Filaments will be sold to hospitals to print their own drugs using in-house printers.

The method should also reduce the incidence of counterfeit medication, because the filament will be harder to replicate, developers claim.

“With the right application, this method will be cheaper and faster for patients to use,” Mr Goyanes said.

“Hospitals are not currently manufacturing medicine, but that could change to allow medical centres to manage their own manufacturing process.”

Although 3-D printed medication has been tested on animals, it is yet to be used in human trials. It would need to be approved by regulators before use, but developers are confident this could be reached within two years.

3-D printing could result in the cost of the most expensive drugs being reduced, including those used in cancer treatment.

A 2015 study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research found the prices of cancer drugs had increased 10 per cent every year between 1995 and 2013.

According to Cancer Research UK, Cancer costs the world £895 billion (Dh3.99 trillion) a year – more than any other disease. In the US, pricing freedom means the best-selling drugs are on average three times more expensive than in the UK.

Dr Mohammad Al Redha, director of the executive office for organisational transformation at the DHA, said the development could be a game-changer for health care.

“Technology is challenging us every day, and while we must be careful how we spend our dollars, we want to give the best to our patients,” he said.

“This will potentially change the way health care works.”

Dr Al Redha said any home printing of 3-D drugs would be strictly controlled. Log-in codes similar to a bank account would allow access to domestic 3-D printing machines used for medication.

“Three-D printing can be compared to the transportation industry with automated systems,” he said. “If you no longer need a kidney donor because you can use bio-ink that is a 100 per cent match to the recipient, it is a lot cheaper and there is zero risk of rejection, the development is huge.

“It is the same with medication.”

nwebster@thenational.ae

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded

The Bio

Favourite Emirati dish: I have so many because it has a lot of herbs and vegetables. Harees  (oats with chicken) is one of them

Favourite place to go to: Dubai Mall because it has lots of sports shops.

Her motivation: My performance because I know that whatever I do, if I put the effort in, I’ll get results

During her free time: I like to drink coffee - a latte no sugar and no flavours. I do not like cold drinks

Pet peeve: That with every meal they give you a fries and Pepsi. That is so unhealthy

Advice to anyone who wants to be an ironman: Go for the goal. If you are consistent, you will get there. With the first one, it might not be what they want but they should start and just do it

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

SUZUME

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Stars: Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu

Rating: 4/5

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
If you go…

Emirates launched a new daily service to Mexico City this week, flying via Barcelona from Dh3,995.

Emirati citizens are among 67 nationalities who do not require a visa to Mexico. Entry is granted on arrival for stays of up to 180 days. 

Maestro

Director: Bradley Cooper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Maya Hawke

Rating: 3/5

What is a robo-adviser?

Robo-advisers use an online sign-up process to gauge an investor’s risk tolerance by feeding information such as their age, income, saving goals and investment history into an algorithm, which then assigns them an investment portfolio, ranging from more conservative to higher risk ones.

These portfolios are made up of exchange traded funds (ETFs) with exposure to indices such as US and global equities, fixed-income products like bonds, though exposure to real estate, commodity ETFs or gold is also possible.

Investing in ETFs allows robo-advisers to offer fees far lower than traditional investments, such as actively managed mutual funds bought through a bank or broker. Investors can buy ETFs directly via a brokerage, but with robo-advisers they benefit from investment portfolios matched to their risk tolerance as well as being user friendly.

Many robo-advisers charge what are called wrap fees, meaning there are no additional fees such as subscription or withdrawal fees, success fees or fees for rebalancing.

Abaya trends

The utilitarian robe held dear by Arab women is undergoing a change that reveals it as an elegant and graceful garment available in a range of colours and fabrics, while retaining its traditional appeal.

The past Palme d'Or winners

2018 Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda

2017 The Square, Ruben Ostlund

2016 I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach

2015 DheepanJacques Audiard

2014 Winter Sleep (Kış Uykusu), Nuri Bilge Ceylan

2013 Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d'Adèle: Chapitres 1 et 2), Abdellatif Kechiche, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux

2012 Amour, Michael Haneke

2011 The Tree of LifeTerrence Malick

2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat), Apichatpong Weerasethakul

2009 The White Ribbon (Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte), Michael Haneke

2008 The Class (Entre les murs), Laurent Cantet

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

And Just Like That...

Director: Various

Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis

Rating: 3/5

UAE SQUAD

Mohammed Naveed (captain), Mohamed Usman (vice captain), Ashfaq Ahmed, Chirag Suri, Shaiman Anwar, Mohammed Boota, Ghulam Shabber, Imran Haider, Tahir Mughal, Amir Hayat, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed, Fahad Nawaz, Abdul Shakoor, Sultan Ahmed, CP Rizwan

What is Folia?

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal's new plant-based menu will launch at Four Seasons hotels in Dubai this November. A desire to cater to people looking for clean, healthy meals beyond green salad is what inspired Prince Khaled and American celebrity chef Matthew Kenney to create Folia. The word means "from the leaves" in Latin, and the exclusive menu offers fine plant-based cuisine across Four Seasons properties in Los Angeles, Bahrain and, soon, Dubai.

Kenney specialises in vegan cuisine and is the founder of Plant Food + Wine and 20 other restaurants worldwide. "I’ve always appreciated Matthew’s work," says the Saudi royal. "He has a singular culinary talent and his approach to plant-based dining is prescient and unrivalled. I was a fan of his long before we established our professional relationship."

Folia first launched at The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills in July 2018. It is available at the poolside Cabana Restaurant and for in-room dining across the property, as well as in its private event space. The food is vibrant and colourful, full of fresh dishes such as the hearts of palm ceviche with California fruit, vegetables and edible flowers; green hearb tacos filled with roasted squash and king oyster barbacoa; and a savoury coconut cream pie with macadamia crust.

In March 2019, the Folia menu reached Gulf shores, as it was introduced at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, where it is served at the Bay View Lounge. Next, on Tuesday, November 1 – also known as World Vegan Day – it will come to the UAE, to the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach and the Four Seasons DIFC, both properties Prince Khaled has spent "considerable time at and love". 

There are also plans to take Folia to several more locations throughout the Middle East and Europe.

While health-conscious diners will be attracted to the concept, Prince Khaled is careful to stress Folia is "not meant for a specific subset of customers. It is meant for everyone who wants a culinary experience without the negative impact that eating out so often comes with."