In the realm of medtech 3D printing, here comes a novel “ink” that may make people suffer less after surgery. Elia Guzzi, a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering at ETH Zurich (Photo above), has devised a biopolymer which, when imbued with pain-relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, can be applied on patients after surgery, like a patch, releasing progressively the painkillers and thus reducing suffering. The project was presented at the first “Scouting for Innovation” contest organised by Agire Foundation, following a call issued by the pharma company Sintetica, and won the first prize of 25K CHF.
Acute postoperative pain affects over 65% of patients, and according to surgeons with whom Elia spoke, this is still an important and underestimated clinical challenge. “Pain is a complex issue, but we want to use simple solutions to control it or at least to reduce it”, says Elia. “After discussing also with anesthesiologists, I decided to further investigate the idea of a subdermal ‘patch’ loaded with pain-relief drugs that can be implanted locally and that releases different active ingredients progressively for 3-4 days. In my field of research, I focus on biomaterials, which led me to devise an innovative biopolymer – a sort of ‘bioink’ – that could be easily used with existing 3D printing technologies”.
The initial focus of InkVivo is in the field of pain management after orthopedic surgeries. In countries like Switzerland and the U.S., for instance, the pro-capita cases of acute pain are very high numbers – numbers that are bound to increase also due to the ageing populations. In future, InkVivo’s technology could be further used for a broader range of clinical applications (e.g., in oncology, wound healing, and cardiovascular). “Sintetica is also working on pain therapy solutions, and it would be interesting to explore a collaboration with them”, says Elia.
InkVivo is one of the ten projects selected for the finals of the Boldbrain Startup Challenge 2021, which will be held in Lugano on December 2.
Photo: Elia Guzzi