• External Contributor

Ceramic 3D printing project could speed up production of essential vaccines

Novel ceramic 3D printed structures could enable fast, safe and cheaper production of vaccines.

A ceramic 3D printing project founded by additive manufacturing company Lithoz together with research organisations SINTEF and IBET, is said to be enabling the production of highly complex vaccines in large quantities at low cost.

The EU funded project, named NESSIE, aims to address the slow and expensive development and production process for essential vaccines, a limitation which has been emphasised by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

It can take months or years to develop an effective targeted vaccine and even then, the cost can be too high for some countries to access. NESSIE was initiated by Lithoz, Norwegian research organisation SINTEF and Portuguese biopharmaceutical research centre IBET, with expertise from genIbet and Cerpotech on manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals and innovative materials, to address these challenges.

Many successful vaccines use viruses to deliver the necessary elements to achieve immunity, but these viruses are expensive to produce and require additional, often expensive, purification measures. The project intends to increase the efficiency with which vaccines are produced and is already being applied to the development of novel methods to purify viruses, such as adenovirus, which are vectors for delivering genes or vaccine antigens to humans.

NESSIE uses Lithoz’s ultra-high-resolution ceramic 3D printing for the manufacture of novel chromatographic columns (the most advanced purification technology), a first of its kind hybrid structured absorbent with tailored shapes and controlled porosity, to improve separation and reduce production costs. So far, NESSIE has successfully produced the first chromatographic supports and will soon test them for adenovirus purification. The goal is for NESSIE to become the benchmark in the production of chromatographic devices to purify complex biopharapheutical compounds and accelerate time to market for vaccines and gene therapy.  

In a joint statement, the project collaborators said: “The NESSIE research project shows that revolutionary technologies such as 3D printing can improve our healthcare system in a sustainable way. Already today we see the strengths of this digital technology. With the current closure and shortage of medical supplies, 3D printing has proven that local manufacturing can be more than just making prototypes.”