Atheer Awad is a Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. She spoke to us about how she’s revolutionizing medicine for patients with special needs.
My Next Great Impossible involves using 3D printing to create personalized medications for patients with special needs, including blind and visually impaired patients. 3D printing has created boundless opportunities in a wide range of industries. Within healthcare, there is an urgent need for personalized medicine, as conventional treatment pathways are ineffective in about 70% of people. Here, 3D printing can offer an invaluable way to create medications tailored to the personal requirements of patients.
My work currently involves 3D printing medication in solid dosage forms called Printlets. Its personalization extends to include the size, flavor, and color, all aimed to meet the individual needs of patients. So far, we have created a range of formulations, including tablets, capsules, suppositories, and drug-loaded medical devices. This gives us a special opportunity to make a difference to patients by improving the quality of treatment and therefore, the quality of their lives.
An example of my work is using Printlets for blind and visually impaired patients. For this patient group, the Printlets were created with Braille patterns on their surface, allowing patients to identify medications even when taken out of their original packaging. The Printlets also disintegrate in the mouth, avoiding the need to use water, and can be tailored in different shapes, providing patients with additional information such as dosing time. The technology was also tested at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, where we received positive feedback. While this example constitutes a small part of my work, the reality is that applications of 3D printing are limited only by imagination.
What motivates me the most about my research is that every day is an exciting new day – this technology never fails to impress me! One day we print tablets for kids with different flavors they are willing to take, the next we help elderly patients by printing one tablet containing six different drugs.
One thing that people often overlook is that, most of the time, great ideas or inventions do not come from one person, but rather are nurtured through teamwork, communication, and an exchange of experiences. We should therefore learn to share hard work and successes. On the other hand, smaller ideas require time and effort to become great ones.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve the Next Great Impossible?
A: Set goals, work your way to success and follow your dreams.