Personalized medicine for kids: A 3D printing company could disrupt medical device sector

MakerBot 3D printerFor all of the interesting applications for 3D printing in healthcare, its potential for pediatrics is the most compelling. It offers a way for medical devices to be customized for children who may have any number of developmental disorders that make simply adapting an adult medical device for kids impractical. A startup that wants to use 3D printing to develop disruptive devices for pediatrics could shake things up.

3D Pediatrics was formed through DreamIt Ventures’ one-year program with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia called Open Canvas@CHOP to help companies identify opportunities to commercialize their technology. A second company, called Haystack, wants to make protecting patients’ privacy through electronic medical records easier.

Steve Barsh is the so-called Expedition Leader at CHOP 3D Pediatrics. He was a managing partner at DreamIt until his own entrepreneurial interests lured him away in 2010. CHOP 3D Pediatrics is made up of several cross-discipline CHOP professionals, who are participating on a part-time basis, along with several outside folks that have come in through DreamIt. It’s exploring several ideas and opportunities in the 3D space, according to Barsh.

He would just as soon the company not be pinned down to any one 3D printing application. After all, it’s in stealth mode and it’s early days. A lot can happen in 12 months. But a look at a couple of regional initiatives in 3D printing in the past six months offers a couple of clues as to the direction the company could take.


A recent example of an idea that grabbed the attention of the 3D printing think tank at CHOP co-founded by anesthesiologist Jorge Galvez involved intubation devices for anesthesiologists. The group has been collaborating with University of Pennsylvania engineering students Nicholas McGill and Michael Rivera after they won a challenge by the Society for Technology in Anesthesia. They successfully used a 3D printer to develop a Williams intubating airway that could be adjusted based on measurements from a CT or MRI scan.

It’s not so difficult to imagine a repository of 3D printing applications created by pediatric physicians across different specialties. After all, one of the goals of the 3D printing think tank is to develop devices across disciplines such as cardiology; anesthesiology; ear, nose and throat; and interventional radiology. In a different approach, the company could whittle down a pipeline of ideas to a manageable number and figure out the best way forward.

Earlier this year Galvez told MedCity News: “There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit in this area, such as customized prosthetics… The challenge is not about using the printer, but having the knowledge and expertise to know what the needs of each specialty are.

Last Fall, Philadelphia institutions formed a local chapter of the Pediatric Medical Device Consortium — one of seven funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The group, which includes engineers and biomedical researchers from CHOP, Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, addresses the shortage of medical devices designed for children.

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