Fridge-sized contraption makes drugs on demand

A new refrigerator-sized factory can rapidly pump out a diverse assortment of drugs on demand.

Researchers designed the system to offer a speedy alternative to large-scale pharmaceutical production. Rejiggering chemical inputs and the device’s collection of tanks and tubes allowed the team to produce four different drugs: an anesthetic (lidocaine), an antihistamine (Benadryl), an anti-anxiety medication (Valium) and an antidepressant (Prozac). The self-contained system was equipped to mix, heat, pump and purify ingredients into hundreds to thousands of doses of pharmaceutical-grade compounds. Making each medication took the device between roughly 12 and 50 hours, the team reports in the April 1 Science. Attached computers allow one person to control and monitor the whole process.

For now, the device only makes liquid medications. But it may be a step toward overcoming limitations of cumbersome drug-making supply chains by developing automated tools that make medications on demand.

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