Medical polymers: Trends, challenges and opportunities

MicrotubeAt the upcoming co-located PLASTEC East and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East event, a panel composed of materials experts from the medical device industry and the research community will discuss trends in medical polymers. In advance of the session, they shared some insights with PlasticsToday.

PLASTEC East and MD&M East, part of the East Coast’s largest advanced design and manufacturing trade show and conference, will be at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, NY, on June 12 to 14, 2018. The panel discussion on medical materials is scheduled for June 13 at 1 PM. For more information and to register to attend, go to the PLASTEC East website.

How materials are driving medical innovation

“Biomaterials are being designed to do more sophisticated work, from controlled degradation to sensors responding to glucose levels and triggering the release of insulin,” said Daniel Heller, PhD, head of the Cancer Nanomedicine Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY). When trying to get a drug to a tumor site, for example, one challenge is to “get the whole particle intact to the disease site before it falls apart,” says Heller. “You need to make sure it is stable enough to take a drug cargo to its destination, where it will degrade.”

Multiple areas of polymer research will advance medical devices and human health over the next decade, adds James Semler, Senior R&D Manager Materials COE, Medication Delivery Solutions, at medical technology company BD (Franklin Lakes, NJ). “In particular, I am excited about the prospects that biomimetic polymers, material-based sensors and advanced 3D printable materials can bring to reduce high incident rate issues within hospital systems as well as reduce development cycle times so that new devices can make it to market faster.”

It's almost certain that 3D printing will be a significant part of the panel discussion, says Ryan Siskey, Principal, Office Director, at Exponent (Philadelphia), a multidisciplinary consulting firm where he is specialized in biomedical engineering. “The group of materials we have to work with as biomedical engineers is actually fairly limited, since they need to be biocompatible,” says Siskey. Once the biocompatibility question has been settled, then it’s a matter of which manufacturing technique needs to be used to obtain a final form product. Historically, that has been injection molding or machining, but additive manufacturing has added a whole new wrinkle, he adds, both in terms of cost and potential for innovation.

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