Why Can't We Print Vaccines with 3D Printers?
Find out how Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are using DNA-based replication technology to produce vaccines in a way that's similar to 3D Printing.
One of our readers recently asked: "if we can "3D print" human organs for scientific research, why can't we also 'print' vaccines or other molecular structures?"
Indeed, since we last wrote about the possibilities of creating human organs on a 3D printer, researchers are making important advances at new startup companies, such as YCombinator's Volumetric, as well as at NASA, which is planning to test the efficacy of "bioprinting"
Given that background, the question is entirely reasonable.
So, is it possible? Can we print molecular structures, such as vaccines, on a 3D printer?
The answer is that we are closer than you might think.
What Kind Of Vaccines Can Be Designed On The Computer?
Let's break this question down into its components, starting with the vaccine design process, and ask the question again.
Is it possible to design vaccines on the computer, much like a product designer would use a CAD program to design a new part to be made on a 3D printer?
The answer is a definite yes, and the millions of people around the world who received a double jab of Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are proof that the process works.
In fact, senior leaders from both Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have been quoted during interviews that one of the quickest steps in developing the new Covid-19 was the design process, which both companies claim they each completed record time after receiving the viral genomic code published by Chinese researchers on January 11, 2020.
How Can A New Vaccine Design Be Accomplished So Quickly?
How could the new mRNA Covid vaccines, which Moderna co-founder Derrick Rossi says at his company designed in just a couple of days, be developed so quickly?
Part of the reason comes from the inherent simplicity of an mRNA vaccine itself, which has a very important but uncomplicated job – it jolts the human body's immune system in action by circulating replicas of features found in the real virus.
As these replicas circulate through the body, the immune system learns to recognize and attack the intruder, e.g. the vaccine, giving us immune protection against the real virus should we be become infected in the future.
What's The Process For Creating An MRNA Coronavirus Vaccine Design On The Computer?
So how do vaccine designers go about it?