The company, which received seed funding through the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program, is taking pre-orders for its supplements. It started life two years ago when Dr Fred Parietti and Alice Melocchi, a visiting scholar from the University of Milan in Italy, discussed how to speed up the production of small batches of pharmaceuticals, according to an article on MIT News.
This led to them looking at dietary supplements, and combining multiple ingredients in a single 3D printed supplement. The company’s website states that it is “produced by combining the latest 3D printing technology with FDA-approved pharmaceutical polymers”. This allows for Multiply Labs to control the release of the ingredients.
“One of our most popular combinations is a morning release of vitamin D and omega-3 and then later in the day, caffeine,” Tiffany Kuo, co-founder & head of marketing & operations, told MIT News. “The fact that caffeine is added to the supplement and released later in the day is something a mass-produced pill cannot do.”
“We found a lot of young professionals care about health and fitness but don’t have time to devote to their own well-being,” Kuo added. “Because we’re using 3-D printing robotics to manufacture in smaller batches rather than larger batches, it allows us to do personalization and allows us to get different formulations out and printed faster.”
The company focuses on a select list of ingredients, which includes calcium, iron, selenium, and zinc; vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, C, D3, and folic acid; and caffeine and omega-3s. Subscribers submit data on their height, sex, weight, health goals, and their current diet, and a tool developed in collaboration with a nutritionist identifies nutrient gaps. No excipients or other additives are used in the finished supplements.
Blood tests may be introduced at a later date to better inform individualized deficiencies, according to MIT News.
Melocchi is the lead author on a couple of papers, which discuss the technology and approach used. In a paper published in Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology, Melocchi et al. demonstrated that fused deposition modeling (FDM), a 3D printing technique-based that works by depositing layer after layer of thermoplastic materials after softening/melting, could produce bodies and caps with satisfactory properties starting from hydroxypropyl cellulose (HPC) filaments.
A subsequent paper, published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics, explored the potential of other commercially-available pharmaceutical polymers for use in FDM, including methacrylic acid copolymer (Eudragit L and RL, Evonik), polyvinyl alcohol-polyethylene glycol graft copolymer (Kollicoat IR, BASF), polyvinyl caprolactam-polyvinyl acetate-polyethylene glycol graft copolymer (Soluplus, BASF), hydroxypropyl cellulose (Klucel LF, Ashland), hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose (Affinisol 15cP, Dow), hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose acetate succinate (AQUOT-LG; Shin-Etsu), polyethylene oxide (Sentry Polyox WSR N10 LEO NF, Colorcon), and polyvinyl alcohol (Gohsenol EG 05PW, Nippon Goshei).
“Overall, the potential of the investigated materials when processed by FDM was demonstrated for the manufacturing of immediate-release capsules, delivery platforms based on capsular devices and cosmetic or functional coating layers,” they wrote. “In addition, a variety of further products, such as tablets and matrices, could be obtained by incorporating active ingredients into the filaments.”
“Fully automated, robotic filling system”
The company does not disclose which pharmaceutical polymer it actually uses in its supplements, simply noting that it is “patent-pending”.
Kuo told TechCrunch that the technique works using a “fully automated, robotic filling system to fill each pill with each customer’s unique set of supplements and quantity combinations”.
Sources: Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology
Volume 30, Part B, December 2015, Pages 360-367
“3D printing by fused deposition modeling (FDM) of a swellable/erodible capsular device for oral pulsatile release of drugs”
Authors: A. Melocchi et al.
International Journal of Pharmaceutics
Volume 509, Issues 1–2, 25 July 2016, Pages 255-263
“Hot-melt extruded filaments based on pharmaceutical grade polymers for 3D printing by fused deposition modeling”
Authors: A. Melocchi et al.