So Small You Can See

The Smallest Tubes in the World: Micro-Fabrication of Hermetic Drug Capsules To Alleviate Macular Degeneration

Drug delivery methods for treating macular degeneration are invasive, unpleasant, and burdensome. In people with this disease, the retina detaches from the eye and they slowly lose their vision. Patients require an injection straight in the eye. Once a month. Every month. For the rest of their lives. Each injection is a painful experience that a comes with a high risk of infection.

In the hopes to change that, I have spent the past year and a half working as Head of Development for a revolutionary new medical implant. This was my first time working with an early-stage startup, On Demand Therapeutics. We developed micro-tube implant capsules that can store precise doses of drugs and release them over a year.

Hermetically-Sealed Drug Capsules

Our goal was to deliver the same macular degeneration fighting drugs with only one injection per year by implanting a hermetically-sealed micro-tube in the eye. The capsule could then release the drug monthly when opened by a low-powered laser that is commonly found in doctor’s offices and is not harmful to humans.

Prototype drug container for implant in the eye to treat Macular Degeneration Rendering of an eye implant to treat Macular DegenerationCompleted implants for the Eye to relase drug to treat Macular Degeneration

Thin-Walled Metal Tubes

To be hermetic, the capsules needed to be made of either metal or glass. And, to open with a low-powered laser, the capsule walls needed to be unbelievably thin. The problem was specialized micro-tube implants with walls that thin had never been made before. People said it would be impossible. But we did it. Over a year and a half, we developed a technique to micro-fabricate the smallest tubes in the world. Our team at Microchips Biotech built new technology to make metal capsules with wall thickens down to 6um and diameters of 0.5mm.

Micro manufacturing small glass tubes with 10um wall 500um diameterTitanium metal tubes thinnest walls 6um wall thickness micro miniature


Frugal Innovation

Of course, working for a fledgling company has its challenges. We had an incredibly tight budget on this project. We optimized our spending by focusing on investing in only necessary high-risk resources and using smart, frugal business practices. We also worked fast—we designed, developed, and built the first prototype in under a year.

It feels invigorating to be on the cutting-edge of micro-fabrication and hermetic drug capsules. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work on this breakthrough technology in the fight against macular degeneration.