Getting medical aid to those in emergency situations and/or in remote parts of the world is always fraught with risk, as the Russians will tell you.
A new device aims to solve that. The device, developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—uses a modified strain of yeast that can produce lifesaving drugs and vaccines on demand.
Drugs take a long time to produce, and researchers have been looking into ways to speed up the entire process. According to Vocativ, a separate MIT team developed a 24-foot-long network of tubes that could churn out essential drugs without external tinkering.
The MIT team in question then refined this model, and came up with a prototype that can produce diphenhydramine (Benadryl), lidocaine (Xylocaine), diazepam (Valium), and fluoxetine (Prozac) from a modified strain of the Pichia pastoris yeast.
When mixed with a specific chemical trigger, the Pichia pastoris will begin to create the drug of choice through synthesis within the device. And when a different drug is needed, the device can simply be flushed out, and mix the same Pichia pastoris with a different chemical trigger. If utilised to its maximum potential, the device can churn out 1,000 doses of a drug in just 24 hours.
Since the modified Pichia pastoris can only produce four drugs, the MIT team is looking into engineering another strain of yeast, or a bunch of strains that grow together, to produce more combinations of drugs and vaccines.