Imagine you have a condition that requires you to take medication daily, but the dosage varies each day. Now imagine you have a medical implant that can send up-to-the-minute information about your health wirelessly to your smartphone, allowing you to print your personalized dosage with a 3D printer that fits in the palm of your hand. Mohammed Maniruzzaman, an Assistant Professor in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery at the University of Sussex, is working hard to make this process a reality. As an expert in translational drug delivery, Mohammed develops innovative technologies to fill the gap between patients’ needs and the current capabilities of pharmaceutical manufacturing. “I always thought I’d like to be part of creating innovations while helping human beings,” Mohammed explains. “Dealing with medicines ticks both of these boxes.”
At Sussex, Mohammed researches pharmaceutical formulations and process engineering with a focus on translational drug delivery, i.e. how a drug makes it from the lab to the market. His research group is working on a continuous drug manufacturing platform that will streamline the drug manufacturing process into a single versatile machine. The current process (which has barely changed since the 1960s) requires several disconnected steps and a lot of stopping and starting to make just one type of medication. A continuous manufacturing machine could be used for any type of drug and would significantly speed up the drug making process from start to finish. “The continuous manufacturing platform will be one of the blockbuster technologies of the world,” Mohammed says. “It will bring a real change.”
Once it’s possible to manufacture any drug using one continuous machine, why not make that machine really, really small? Mohammed wants patients to one day be able to take pharmaceutical manufacturing into their own hands—literally! He believes that handheld 3D printers the size of a smartphone will be the next generation pill producing platform. While the idea of 3D printing medications isn’t new, no one else is trying to print them on such a small scale. To accompany the handheld 3D printer, Mohammed is also exploring smart medical devices such as an implanted sensor that can wirelessly send information about the patient’s health to their smart device. The idea is that the implant would use the patient’s own health data to send tailored information about their drug needs to their smartphone or handheld smart device. The smart device would then design the required medication and their small 3D printer would print it on demand. Formulation scientists like Mohammed will provide the raw materials and the formulas, and the “ink” will contain the medication. “I know it sounds crazy, but it is completely possible and it is not very difficult. In the future, you'll be able to manufacture your own medicines.”
The University of Sussex is the perfect place for Mohammed to pursue this innovative technology. It’s been at the forefront of ground-breaking cancer, neurodegeneration, ecology, conservation, neuroscience, drug delivery, and drug discovery research and boasts five Nobel laureates among its past and present faculty. It also offers him the necessary freedom to develop innovative technologies. “I love to explore new research/teaching potentials and innovative approaches,” says Mohammed. “In order to do this, you need freedom. I think my job serves me well in this respect.” Having a network of supportive colleagues also helps, and Mohammed describes his colleagues as open-minded and cooperative. Whenever he thinks of a new project with huge potential, they are immediately on board to help.
“It may sound bit strange, but the coolest part of my job is ‘challenge’,” says Mohammed. “Every day we are being challenged, and when we achieve something, another hundred elements are immediately imposed to take the innovation to the next level.” He wants to be at the forefront and strives to keep improving the drug manufacturing process. He strongly believes that hard work will allow him to achieve his ultimate goal to drive innovation while at the same time helping human beings.