Triastek and Eli Lilly team up to 3D print gastrointestinal drugs

Chinese drug 3D printing company Triastek announced a partnership with a global pharmaceutical company Eli Lily to research and develop 3D-printed oral drugs for the gastrointestinal tract.

Specifically, the project will leverage Triastek’s proprietary Melt Extrusion Deposition (MED) technology to fabricate drug timed release profiles to target specific areas of the human digestive system.

Dr. Senping Cheng, Founder and CEO of Triastek, said, “The collaboration between Triastek and Lilly is an excellent example of the application of MED® technology to improve oral drug delivery. We envision that Triastek’s MED® technology can be used to solve formulation challenges leading to the development of clinically valuable products for our global partners.

Triastek’s MED 3D printing technology. Image via Triastek.

Triastek and MED 3D printing

Founded in 2015, Triastek has based its entire business around 3D printed solid dosage form drugs. The company has already completed six rounds of financing to date, with investors such as Tasly Holding Group, Morningside Venture Capital, Volcanic adventure, Dalton Venture, Yunqi Partners, Matrix Partners Chinaand more.

The company’s MED 3D printing technology provides an end-to-end method for manufacturing a wide variety of new dosage form designs. The extrusion-based process works by mixing, melting and depositing active ingredients into complex geometric structures that would otherwise be impossible to produce. As a result, the process allows control of drug release to a level that is simply not possible with conventional tablet production techniques.

The company has also integrated real-time process analysis technology (PAT) into the MED system that can continuously monitor the 3D printing process to ensure product quality and make regulatory oversight more convenient.

Triastek’s T19 and T20 products have already received Investigative New Drug (IND) clearance from the FDA. T19 was developed in-house and is designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the cells that line the joints by mistake, making them stiff and swollen.

The company also has 158 patent applications related to 3D-printed pharmaceuticals, with patent coverage in multiple countries around the world.

Triastek has obtained IND clearance from the FDA for its drug T19 for rheumatoid arthritis.  Image via Triastek.
Triastek has obtained IND clearance from the FDA for its drug T19 for rheumatoid arthritis. Photo via Triastek.

Built on collaborative research

To date, Triastek has established a variety of collaborations with multinational pharmaceutical companies to advance its product formulations. The latest, the Eli Lilly partnership, will include a two-step program.

First, companies will take a deep dive into excipient properties and process parameters to conduct an in-depth study of how these factors impact drug stability. This study will cover everything from formulation development to 3D printing and the final stage of drug release.

Going forward, the partners will then identify unique 3D-printable structures to design new dosage forms. These structures will be programmed to deliver drugs to targeted parts of the intestines, all with the aim of improving the bioavailability of 3D-printed drugs when administered orally.

Triastek is certainly not the only player in the field of 3D printed pharmaceuticals. Earlier this year, the venture capital arm of the German chemical company Evonik invested in a 3D printed pharmaceutical company based in Nevada Laxxon Medical to bring mass production of 3D printed tablets closer to reality. The companies are teaming up to mass manufacture new multi-drug tablets using Laxxon’s patented 3D screen printing technology and Evonik’s specialized polymer materials.

Elsewhere, developer of pharmaceutical technologies CurifyLabs recently partnered with a food printing company Natural Machinery with the aim of bringing a new low-cost drug 3D printer to market. Working together, the companies say they’ve developed a “pharma-compliant” system that provides a more efficient automated alternative to the compounding process used to create personalized drugs.

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Featured image shows Triastek’s T19 drug for rheumatoid arthritis. Photo via Triastek.

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