A Kosher High with a 3D Printed Medical Marijuana Inhaler


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Israeli drug delivery company Syqe Medical has made a 3D printed medical marijuana inhaler. This intersection of all the buzz lacks only in a nanomaterial and big data, or it would be the sole thing spoken about on Earth today.

The company’s inhaler can control the doses and is a metered dose cannabis and plant medicinal inhaler, in the works for a few years. This means that it can dispense weed in a controlled treatment without any smoke or other carcinogenic materials being inhaled by the patient. In short, the device makes smoking marijuana a more controlled and healthy option for patients. Teva Pharmaceuticals will be a distributor of the device in Israel. Syqe will seek FDA approval for the device next year.

First one’s free?

Perry Davidson, the CEO of Syqe, said,

“We give them credit, for Teva, to have the chutzpah to sign up with us to prescribe cannabis in its natural form. The fact that we had to go through all the due diligence with the top management in Teva to have this marketed by a pharmaceutical company – if that doesn’t mean we’re a drug, I don’t know what is a drug.”

In addition to Teva, another partner and investor is Philip Morris. The tobacco giant has been looking at alternative tobacco delivery systems and now has invested in pharmaceutical marijuana company Syqe to the tune of $20 million, responsible for two-thirds of the money invested in the startup.

The inhaler reports back on when what doses have been taken, and the effects of the THC can be felt within five minutes. The device includes marijuana Vapor Chips (No I did not make this up). “It also includes thermal controllers and lung interfacing that can pause or increase airflow based on pace and speed. That allows the inhaled dose to meet a level of precision within one hundred micrograms — a medically acceptable threshold of accuracy,” notes the Jerusalem Post.

Syqe Medical’s Cartridges

So a few takeaways: Philip Morris, Israeli medical and 3D printing innovation, producing medical devices using 3D printers, 3D printing is still cool, legal weed and connected devices. First off the legal weed business seems to be penetrating more areas worldwide. Whereas it is a legally murky free for all in the US, in other places people seem to be doing more due diligence. By creating a controlled device with a standard dose, Syqe medicalizes the practice of smoking weed. This is valuable because it can encourage more regulators and authorities to legalize marijuana. The regulation of dope through devices gives authorities more control and leverage over the weed industry. This may reduce adverse health effects of weed, but it may also nip in the bud the emerging weed economy. There is an inherent tension between many marijuana advocates and regulatory authorities. Some see marijuana as a symbolically free activity which is a kind of libertarian expression of freedom through drug taking. Many others consider marijuana wholly healthy and natural. On the other hand, medical authorities worldwide are trying to balance perceived ganja benefits with the correct regulatory behavior on their part. This battle is not yet won but by making regulatory-body-helpful devices such as theirs, the company could sidestep a lot of acrimony and make weed dispensing comfortable for authorities.

To show more of the dispensing capabilities, Syqe 3D printed a prototype on a short timeline as a better representation for investors to understand the concept than they might get from a slideshow.

“With just two weeks ahead of us, we turned our Stratasys Objet 350 3D Printer into our R&D hub. I designed the inhaler prototype and we 3D printed the parts. We wanted to show how small the device would be, how it would function, how the electronics would work, and how the airflow would work. This was all achieved with our 3D printed model. This changed the whole conversation with the investor,” said Itay Kurgan, Syqe Medical’s head of design in a Stratasys case study.

Israel has seen a lot of 3D printing innovation over the years, spawning Objet, Xjet, Massivit and many other companies. Early applications in medical devices, prototypes, and military hardware also saw a lot of investment in 3D printing in Israel. Simultaneously the Israeli startup scene has been growing, and many innovative medical companies have emerged in Israel. Rather than one silicon valley of 3D printing will we see many? Is Israel the ideal place for a “medical 3D printing silicon valley” and the Netherlands the ideal one for industrial 3D printing in polymers, while Germany is the ideal one for industrial 3D printing in metals? Will we see numerous highly specialized clusters emerge worldwide? I’m guessing that yes, this will be the case and am trying to identify them as we speak.

Several companies now make 3D printed medical devices. Implants, surgical guides, hearing aids, dental bridges and crowns, visual models and many other applications are growing. At one point direct bioprinting and organ printing will become a reality as well. But surprisingly it is still challenging for a medical device company to prototype medical devices using 3D printing, let alone produce them. Certain process limitations can be a barrier. Layers and porous surfaces may not be safe and may pose problems for cleaning and keeping devices clean. Few materials can be put into an autoclave. PPSU can for example, but there are precious few others. Many materials are not certified. Many materials contain impurities. There are a lot of materials out there that do not disclose all of the additives and other substances in them. Even with a safe material one would have to go through quite some certification hurdles. Process-wise only a few companies (Pro-Fit, Materialise) have experience in making 3D printed parts in certified environments. Software and qualification paths have to be developed to make the simple operation of printing and then certifying a 3D medical device. I’m very optimistic about seeing a lot of innovation specifically in medical devices but am pessimistic about the sheer amount of effort and certification we need to embark upon in order to make this a reality.

A Syqe Medical Inhaler with its cartridge.

On the upside, 3D printing is still cool. We’re not entirely in the doldrums yet. We’re still a cool thing to mention in your news article and can still raise some eyebrows. Phew, that’s a relief.

The Syqe Medical Inhaler is also a connected medical device which seems to be approachable from and to be able to report back via the web. For this kind of device to be successful, security on the reporting component of it would have to be very tight. Interestingly, such connected devices could be used extensively to do new kinds of research. A researcher could use the data to see, for example, if people dose more when it rains or if they are traveling. Such medical devices also carry a host of privacy concerns within them. More and more connected medical devices will emerge, and they may do a lot of good or encourage much research, but the ethical, privacy and security aspects will have to be ironclad for them to deliver real value over time. At the same time, these kinds of connected dispensing devices pose a huge business opportunity. It’s like a Nespresso but for weed!

Or better yet: It is like an Internet-connected Nespresso for weed! The most “stoned as a shrimp” as we say in Dutch, VC could not have come up with this piece of amazing. The most out-there, imagine there are no boxes, imagine there never were any boxes, disruptive, Excel Cell addicted, PowerPoint junkie, risk pricing expert that himself lives ten miles from a fault line would ever have come up with something so truly wow as this. Imagine that this free dangerous, edgy druggie thing: weed, would be completely and totally sanitized. Connected Nespresso for weed. A formerly natural product taken through a capsule, purchase driven by a web-connected inhaler. In the same vein that many countries emerge to become their anathemas and things have a tendency to invert, maybe this is only logical. Imagine that this popularized by the flower power, turn on tune in drop out product touted by a protest generation in open rebellion against “the man” was now sold to you via Phillip Morris? The corporate boogeyman of the last century and headquarters of starched shirts will be the ones to enable 3D printed inhalers for dosed weed. Your parents’ ganja, weed, dope, hash, reefer and doobie, domesticated by Phillip Morris.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: The Jerusalem Post / Images: Syqe Medical]


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