"In the future, we will not sell drugs, but blueprints or apps."
So says Lee Cronin, a chemist from the University of Glasgow who is working to develop a bleeding edge 3D printing technology he says could revolutionize the drug market. Cronin says he's created a prototype 3D Chemputer capable of creating medicines and drugs by assembling or reconfiguring chemical compounds on a molecular level with 3D printing.
Simply put, Cronin says his 3D printer for molecules can take "plans" for molecules and print them.
3D printing is already transforming science and technology by delivering one-off, low-cost appliances and products which were previously beyond a reasonable economic scope for production. Cronin and his team use a 3D printer to begin chemical reactions by printing reagents directly into a 3D "reactionware" matrix.
On the positive side, prescription medications could be created at home by purchasing a "blueprint" and "chemical ink" online. The necessary chemicals and dosages would then be custom output to meet specific needs and patient requirements. The idea opens up the possibility that various allergens and pathogens could also be cut from recipes exactly tailored to a given patient.
The possible negative consequences are, of course, also looming on the horizon.
Imagine a day when chemists could make, redesign – and print out – various substances
currently under government control or prohibition. Breaking Bad, Walter White-types could easily use the technology to create and correctly dose LSD, Methamphetamine and other "street drugs" on demand.
Like it or not, the idea is achievable and according to Cronin coming to a kitchen near you.
"Perhaps in 10 to 15 years? Who knows?" Cronin said. "Maybe 5 to 10 years."