3D-Printing is, without argument, a disruptive technology in the healthcare sector. 3D-printing startups are already making healthcare products and processes more accessible and customizable. Although large pharmaceutical companies have yet to feel the change in the market, they should invest in the 3D-printing future.
Don’t believe us? Artem Gassan, cofounder and CEO of Whale Path, as well as a Graduate of the Silicon Valley Founder Institute, has outlined the effect 3D-printing will have on Big Pharma in the Huffington Post article, “The Big Ideas 3D-Printing Brings to Big Pharma”. Here are some of the key takeaways:
1. 3D-Printing Will Replace Pharmacies
The ability to 3D-print pharmaceuticals and customized medications from any location may sound like a recipe for disaster and seem like a large threat to Big Pharma revenue. However, a lack of pharmaceutical knowledge will keep consumers dependent on both large and small pharmaceutical companies despite the technological advance. While there are obvious concerns regarding consumer’s ability to print their own drugs, these concerns may outweigh the potential benefits of customized healthcare.
Lee Cronin, a scientist at Glasgow University...hopes users of his 3D-printer prototype will one day go to an online drugstore with a prescription, buy the 'blueprint' for a drug and chemical 'ink' that comes in a pre-sealed cartridge, and print out their own prescription at home.”
2. 3D-Printing Startups Will Eliminate the Need for Animal Trials
Although the conventional norm is to test new pharmaceuticals on animals prior to human trials, the ability to bioprint live human tissue changes how pharmaceutical companies can meet controversial FDA required testing. In order to improve corporate ethics, large pharmaceutical companies should investigate 3D-bioprinting startups and opportunities.
The San Diego-based startup Organovo has already begun testing cancer drugs on 3D-bioprinted human tissue--soon, more companies are likely to follow suit. With nimble startups moving quickly in the biologics creation wave, they will likely overtake big pharma's competitive advantage in drug production before long.”
3. Enterprise Applications Will Offer the Largest Revenues
As 3D-printing technology progresses, margins on consumer 3D-printing products have started to decrease. However, 3D-printing biomaterials is an open market for startups with a plethora of potential and opportunity for big pharma investment.
[In] enterprise-oriented niche markets like biomaterials, there will be plenty of profit to be made. Not only are the premiums for these kinds of markets expected to remain high, the competition isn't great. With so many possibilities for the industry, few companies are researching the exact same thing.”
4. 3D-Printing Complements Existing Pharma Technology
3D-printing startups are changing current markets, like prostheses, by making products cheaper and more customized. However, there is also an opportunity for startups to integrate with current technologies in order to improve the scope and complexity of 3D-printing.
The capabilities of 3D-printers are only growing: The current simple .STL printing format might be replaced by a more sophisticated Additive Manufacturing File (AMF), allowing more complex information to be transmitted and for more complex materials to be used, like integrated sensors, circuits, and batteries.”