The DeSimone laboratory aims to develop innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to complex problems centered around advanced polymer 3D fabrication methods. Through our Chemical Engineering and Materials Science focus area, we are pursuing new capabilities in digital 3D printing, as well as the synthesis of new polymers for use in advanced additive technologies. We aim to employ these advances through our Translational Medicine focus area, including to investigate new vaccine platforms, enhanced drug delivery approaches, and improved medical devices for numerous conditions, with an initial major focus in pediatrics. Complementing these research areas, our group has a third focus in Entrepreneurship, Digital Transformation, and Manufacturing.
Building on previous advances by the DeSimone lab related the continuous liquid interface production (CLIP) polymer 3D printing technology (Science 2015), we are currently pursuing the development of new digital 3D printing capabilities, including a single-digit micron resolution 3D printer and novel methods for multi-material 3D printing. These projects involve investigating fundamental principles, as well as designing, building, and instrumenting new printer concepts.
Additionally, our research examines creative methods to employ digital fabrication techniques for the direct synthesis of new polymeric materials for use with advanced digital 3D printing technologies. We are focused on areas including the synthesis of new biodegradable materials, as well as strategies for topology optimization in material design.
In the DeSimone lab, we are extremely motivated to leverage both new and existing 3D printing techniques and polymer materials capabilities to improve human health. For example, in the area of vaccines, we are focused on the development of a new microneedle-based vaccine platform, enabled by new 3D printing capabilities, that addresses drawbacks of current approaches. In conjunction with our partners, our goal is to create a platform approach that is readily adaptable to accommodate any suite of antigen(s) and adjuvants(s), that triggers a robust and durable immune response, that reduces or eliminates reliance on a cold chain, and that provides advantages for simplifying vaccine administration.
Another major area of focus for us in translational medicine is the development of new 3D printed medical devices and corresponding digital treatment planning approaches to improve both therapeutic efficacy for various conditions, as well as affordability for families regardless of income. With our initial major area of focus on pediatric therapeutic devices, we are working with partners at Stanford to create and investigate devices that improve affordability and treatment outcomes for babies with conditions including cleft palate, airway obstructions, and plagiocephaly.
Additionally, we aim to develop enhanced device-assisted locoregional drug delivery approaches, including to target cancer, by pursuing therapeutic device optimization strategies afforded by the unique design and fabrication capabilities enabled via our advanced digital 3D printing techniques.
Complementing and augmenting our lab’s work in translational medicine, members of the DeSimone group are exposed not only to potential entrepreneurial opportunities as they emerge from our lab’s research advances, but also to key concepts in entrepreneurship through Prof. DeSimone’s affiliation and teaching through the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In addition to translating university-based research advances to the market to achieve practical impact, subjects of particular interest within entrepreneurship include peer accountability and diversity, equity, and inclusion within companies and on company boards.
Moreover, as digital 3D fabrication technologies become more commonly utilized—not just for prototyping but for real product manufacturing—this emergent shift provides an opportunity to examine topics such as supply chain disruption and modernization, as well as strategies toward achieving a circular economy.
Image credit: The circular economy concept (http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/wrap-and-circular-economy)