College of Pharmacy

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New printer to make 3D models at URI College of Pharmacy

Can render solid, touchable versions of drug, virus molecules, architectural models, and artificial limbs….

February 28, 2011 – Professor Bongsup Cho sat at his desk discussing a new 3-dimensional printer that will soon be a part of the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy.

As he explained how the printer will make touchable, textural and colorful models of drug molecules, cancer molecules or bacteria, a visitor to his office was incredulous. “Will the printer make 3D paper images in an origami-like fashion?” Cho was asked. “Will it make these images out of cardboard?”

Then Cho, a biomedical scientist who specializes in DNA damage and mutations as they relate to the development of cancer, pulled out a 3D “print” of a drug molecule. It was 8 inches long, 6 inches high, weighed about 2-and-a-half pounds and was colored gray, red, purple and yellow. It took about seven hours to print a model of this size. Smaller models can take as little as 30 minutes to print.

That molecule model in Cho’s office is just the beginning of a new way for students to learn about drug effects on diseases, drug interactions and the genesis of diseases from mutating genes. For years, engineers and designers have been using 3D printers to make prototype models. Cho said the biomedical science community is now catching up. He said affordable prices and the addition of brilliant colors to the models helped build the momentum.

A $123,600 grant from the Champlin Foundations has made it possible for the College of Pharmacy to purchase the 3D printer system manufactured by Z Corporation of Burlington, Mass. Cho is working with co-investigators Roy Bergstrom, lead information technologist in URI’s Media and Technology Services, and Marian Goldsmith, professor and chair of Biological Sciences.

Newsletter Article – Spring 2011 Edition

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