Wei Jiang, founder of Craft Health tells us about 3D printed, personalized healthcare.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Wei Jiang: Thank you for your concern, we are doing well and are adapting to the new normal. We are based in Singapore and are grateful that we can continue with business as usual, albeit with certain restrictions due to the pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Craft Health.
Wei Jiang: I am a pharmacist by profession and practiced at a local hospital before going back to the National University of Singapore (NUS) for my postgraduate studies. I received a scholarship from NUS Graduate School for Integrative Sciences and Engineering (NGS) to pursue the concurrent double degree in Ph.D. (Formulation Work & Drug Delivery) and an MBA from NUS business school, with a finance specialization.
I knew my fellow co-founder, Dr. Seng Han LIM, since our undergraduate days and we met again while pursuing our post-graduate studies. We wanted to do more translational work and decided to pursue entrepreneurship. In our penultimate year of graduate studies, we thought we should work together to solve the problem of complex medication regimens.
Having practiced for several years at a local hospital, we saw many patients going home with bags of medicines and often complicated medication regimes. These include medicines for diabetes, hypertension, or high cholesterol. To further complicate the already complex dosing, some medicines are taken at different times of the day or required to be taken before or after meals. We brainstormed and explored many possible solutions, before narrowing them down to 3D printing, where Seng Han had spent the last 4 years working on. Craft Health was then incorporated.
How does Craft Health innovate?
Wei Jiang: Craft Health is a healthcare company, building the platform to lead the world’s transition towards 3D printed personalized healthcare.
To do so, Craft Health innovates across the hardware, software, formulations, and materials involved in the 3D printing of personalized healthcare. Since we launched in May 2019, we have:
- CraftMake™ (Hardware): In-house developed 3D printer specialized for nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Our 3D printer is designed for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and the 3D printing process does not involve heat or ultraviolet (UV) curing, enabling a wide range of active ingredients to be used.
- CraftControl™ (Software): 3D printing software optimized for CraftMake™
- CraftBlends™ (3D printable formulations): A series of proprietary 3D printable formulations for different controlled released profiles such as immediate-release, sustained-release, and delayed-release that can be combined in a single 3D printed tablet.
- CraftDatabase™ (Material database): Our formulation database specializing in the use of materials for 3D printing of different active ingredients and the desired release profiles, reducing overall formulation development time.
We are able to 3D-print various combinations of active ingredients, whether nutraceuticals or medicine, into a single pill, each with its own release profile, reducing the issues of poly-pharmacy, or having too many pills to consume.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Wei Jiang: As we are based in Singapore, we entered the Circuit Breaker period from April to June where we had to work from home. Since most of our operations were laboratory-based, it meant that our progress was delayed by at least 2 months. Nonetheless, we made the best out of the situation by taking the time to do our literature research as well as administrative tasks. We also maintained weekly communications and kept team morale high through online meetings.
We are extremely grateful to our investors, partners, and collaborators who understood the uncertainties thrown at us by the pandemic and continue to lend their support to us. We managed to emerge from the Circuit Breaker period more resilient and eventually managed to fulfill our developmental milestone of developing our Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) ready 3D printer (CraftMake™) that specializes in pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals without too much delay. Since then, we have grown from strength to strength and received much interest from both the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical sectors. We expect 2021 to be an exciting year for us as we start to monetize our Craft Health platform.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Wei Jiang: As Craft Health grew in development milestones and team size, we were cognizant of the need to eventually move to a facility where we could start production of 3D printed nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals. Finding a perfect place that was suitable for our budget and requirements took a considerable time. After looking at several possible venues, we finally settled on an option that we were happy with.
Moving to a new facility where we could start production was a decision where we debated for some time. Eventually, we understood that the trade-off from the cost was more than compensated by our ability to obtain early cash flow from production, as well as to offer a showcase for our 3D printing process for interested parties to consult from.
Your final thoughts?
Wei Jiang: We knew that entrepreneurship really throws everything at you, but even then, we did not expect the pandemic to strike. We are thankful that everyone stayed safe and healthy, and our team demonstrated the grit to see things through. We are excited to move to our facility in the second half of 2021 and start the production of 3D-printed nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals for personalized healthcare.
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