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Can one 3-D printed pill replace a pile of vitamins?


MIT startup Multiply Labs is betting that personalized, 3-D printed supplements will appeal to people who want a boost in nutrition without having to swallow multiple pills every day. 

Multiply Labs, cofounded by Fred Parietti, PhD ’16, Tiffany Kuo, MBA ’16, Alice Melocchi, and Joe Wilson, will introduce a manufacturing process later this year that uses 3-D robotics to make personalized pills. Customers can choose their own combination of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds like caffeine and omega-3, to be inserted into minuscule compartments within each pill. Those compartments will have varying thicknesses to control the release time of the components with the supplement, which is the size of a regular multivitamin.

For example, if caffeine is added to the supplement, its release will be delayed to later in the day, which is something a mass-produced pill cannot do, Kuo said.

“Instead of taking a multivitamin, omega-3 capsule, and then coffee later in the day, we can place everything in one capsule,” Kuo said.

Consumers can determine their own nutritional needs, or specifically, what they are deficient in, by using the Multiply Labs online algorithm or after consulting with a physician or nutritionist. 

MIT roots

The company, located in San Francisco, got its start at MIT when Parietti and Melocchi, who was a visiting student in the chemical engineering department, worked together on the technology, publishing research about their work in 2015. MIT Sloan students Kuo and Wilson joined the team to help commercialize and market the product. The MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program provided $5,000 in funding and another seed round of funding has followed, although the company won’t disclose investors yet.

The startup will launch this spring, and is taking pre-orders for the mail subscription-based service. Vitamins, minerals, and supplements are a $30 billion industry in the United States.

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