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Click chemistry, 3D-printing, and omics: the future of drug development

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Genomics is a disruptive technology, having revealed that cancers are tremendously complex and differ from patient to patient. Therefore, conventional treatment approaches fit poorly with genomic reality. Furthermore, it is likely that this type of complexity will also be observed in other illnesses. Precision medicine has been posited as a way to better target disease-related aberrations, but developing drugs and tailoring therapy to each patient's complicated problem is a major challenge. One solution would be to match patients to existing compounds based on in silico modeling. However, optimization of complex therapy will eventually require designing compounds for patients using computer modeling and just-in-time production, perhaps achievable in the future by three-dimensional (3D) printing. Indeed, 3D printing is potentially transformative by virtue of its ability to rapidly generate almost limitless numbers of objects that previously required manufacturing facilities. Companies are already endeavoring to develop affordable 3D printers for home use. An attractive, but as yet scantily explored, application is to place chemical design and production under digital control. This could be accomplished by utilizing a 3D printer to initiate chemical reactions, and print the reagents and/or the final compounds directly. Of interest, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a 3D printed drug-levetiracetam-indicated for seizures. Further, it is now increasingly clear that biologic materials-tissues, and eventually organs-can also be "printed." In the near future, it is plausible that high-throughput computing may be deployed to design customized drugs, which will reshape medicine.

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