3D Printing Precision Medicine Startups

How 3D Printing will Shape the Future of HealthCare

Mariam Abdel-Baset—McMaster Life Sciences 2023

Close your eyes and think of a hospital. What is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it doctors and nurses running around from room to room? Do you think of a hospital drama and your favourite character? Or is it a big and modern building filled with a bunch of high-tech equipment.

It is no secret that hospitals are rely on many types of high-tech equipment to ensure that patients are provided with the best of care. From robots that perform remote concussion evaluations, to proton beam therapy that can be used to treat cancer, to labs that can process over 1,000 COVID-19 tests in a single day, it’s safe to say that technology and healthcare go hand in hand (1). As the largest demographic group in many countries is older adults, hospitals are in constant need of novel and innovative technology to treat them. To top, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases has strained hospital staff and resources, increasing the need for innovative technology.

Medical professionals must ask themselves what piece of technology has such potential to be the key in solving many of these medical problems? What tool has the potential of shaping the future of healthcare?

The answer to this question is 3D printing.

3D printing has come a long way in the last couple decades. It has evolved from a novel and unheard-of tool to a machine that can be found in many hospitals, offices and even homes. Today, 3D printing is used in numerous ways throughout hospitals. For example, it is used to cost effectively print materials such as bandages, stents, casts, and various surgical tools (2)! 3D printing is also used to make prosthetics, lowering the financial burden on patients from tens of thousands of dollars, to only hundreds of dollars. This makes medicine more accessible to many more individuals around the world (3). This amazing tool has also played a major role in supporting hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic, as 3D printing was used to mass produce additional respirators – a device essential in the treatment of patients suffering from respiratory symptoms associated with severe COVID-19 infection.

Today, many researchers and doctors are looking at 3D printing to bridge the gap between patients requiring organ transplantation and the absence of suitable organ donors. As a result, organ transplantation waitlists can be eliminated, and individuals in need can receive a heart, lung, or kidney. Some researchers are even looking to print tissue, bones, heart valves and much more (4). At the University of Madrid, researchers have begun developing a prototype 3D printer that can print skin, which could potentially be used for accident or burn victims (5).  Researchers across the world are pushing the limits of 3D printing every day. With printing costs being much cheaper than acquiring a donated organ, millions of more people may be able to afford such procedures.

At this rate, printing parts of organs is not a question of “if”, but rather “when”. In 2020, the 3D printing market was valued at $12.6 billion, and it is only estimated to keep growing (6). The value of the 3D printing is expected to increase by 17% by 2023, and with it more advances in health care are predicted to follow (6). Time will only tell what will happen to the future of healthcare, but my guess is that 3D printing will play a huge role in it.

SOURCE: Advanced Solutions


  1. Upkeep. What are the Most Technologically Advanced Hospitals and How Are They Taking on Covid-19? 2020. [Internet] Available from:
  2. Manufacturing Tomorrow. The Massive Potential of 3D Printing in the Healthcare Industry. 2020. [Internet] Available from:
  3. General Electric. How 3D Printing Could Bend the Cost Curve in Healthcare. 2017. [Internet]. Available from:
  4. The Medical Futurist. 3D Printing in Medicine and Healthcare – The Ultimate List In 2021. 2021. [Internet]. Available from
  5. University of Madrid. 3-D bioprinter to print human skin. ScienceDaily. 2017. [Internet]. Available from:
  6. Statistica. Global 3D printing products and services market size from 2020 to 2026. 2021. [Internet]. Available from:
Consumer Gadgets Health Monitoring Startups

The Future of Health Monitoring with Consumer Gadgets

Stephanie Chung — McMaster Honours Life Sciences 2023

As technology continues to progress and aid in daily activities, people nowadays are growing increasingly dependent upon their smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices. With this trend, there is a growing market and consumer base for individuals to use health monitoring devices in order to keep track of the status of their bodies. These gadgets are either wearable or embedded into an individual’s environment(1) and able to keep track of health vitals, fitness and specialized health concerns. The overall goal of health monitoring consumer gadgets are to report accurate results for users, thus involving monitoring and storing data pertaining to the consumer. The ways in which results are monitored vary based on the specific technology and goal of the technological wear, such as through sensors on the products and microcontrollers(2). Depending on the device, different sensors are able to obtain measurements such as temperature, heart pulse/rhythm, blood sugar levels and other data pertaining to the purpose of the gadget.

Popular gadgets include smart watches, headbands and some devices tailored towards individuals with certain medical needs that measure blood pressure (bp) and asthma monitors. Smart watches have been targeted towards the general public as a means of being able to keep track of heart rate, calories burned, steps taken, sleep and activity levels, blood oxygen and even electrocardiograms(3). These watches have also been seamlessly integrated with common conveniences many use, such as being able to send and receive messages, phone calls, notifications, etc., in a small and portable form-factor. Smart headbands, like electroencephalography (EEG) headbands, have been developed to monitor the mental health of individuals through being used for meditation, measuring breathing patterns and heart rate(4). EEG devices monitor and offer the user feedback on their measurements in hopes of aiding them to become a more skilled meditator(5). Blood pressure monitors that are portable are convenient as they may be used anywhere and can track trends and changes. This information may be used in order to see if a physician is required to intervene in cases where vitals are abnormal (e.g. bp might be too high, indicating hypertension) and subsequent new course of action is required(6). In addition, asthma monitors, such as a Peak Flow Meter are useful as they take measurements daily regarding the expiratory flow rate of an individual and allows the user to keep track of changes if  they occur(7). This serves as an indicator and tool to help determine whether intervention is required and how the individual’s asthma is being managed(7).

As wearable technology is gaining popularity, there is the proposal of using wearable sensors a few days prior to physical examinations, thus relying upon the sensors to gather data pertaining to the patient’s vitals(1). This will collect measurements regarding your body’s physiological state (temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate) and thus practitioners will be able to use the longitudinal information gathered in order to assess and evaluate the patient’s health(1). As this has yet to be achieved, it is in the midst of being implemented in order to improve the healthcare of individuals through being able to more accurately diagnose patients as well as be more time-efficient to aid more people. This can be compared to blood pressure and asthma monitors that are indicative to physicians of a patient’s status and aid them in figuring out a course of action. In conclusion, as technology and medicine continue to be intertwined, there will be more products targeting specific health conditions. It can even be seen that smart watches which began as tracking steps and calories are now able to measure heart rate and other features. At the current rate of advancement, the future of wearable technology is optimistic and will arrive much sooner than you think.  


  1. Saha HN, Auddy S, Pal S, Kumar S, Pandey S, Singh R, et al. Health monitoring using internet of things (IoT). IEEE [Internet]. 2017 Aug [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
  2. Goel AK. Modern electronics wearable gadgets for health monitoring. STM Journals [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 6(2): 11-16. Available from:
  3. Baig EC. Newest smartwatches move from tracking fitness to monitoring health [Internet]. Washington, D.C.: AARP; 2020 Sep [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
  4. Hunkin H, King DL, Zajac, IT. Perceived acceptability of wearable devices for the treatment of mental health problems. J. Clin. Psychol [Internet]. 2020 Feb [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 76(6): 987-1003. Available from:
  5. Balconi M, Fronda G, Venturella I, Crivelli D. Conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious mechanisms in emotional behaviour. Some applications to the mindfulness approach with wearable devices. Appl. Sci [Internet]. 2017 Dec [cited 2021 Dec 29]; 7(12): 1-14. Available from:
  6. Harvard Medical School. The benefits of do-it-yourself blood pressure monitoring [Internet]. Harvard University in Massachusetts, United States: Harvard Health Publishing; 2018 July [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:
  7. Asthma Canada. Peak flow meters [Internet]. Toronto, Canada: Asthma Canada; 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 29]. Available from:

Fraud, Deception and Blood: A Cautionary Tale of Theranos

Tara Sabzvari—McMaster Univeristy Honours Life Sciences 2020

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been an eye-opening experience, giving us insight into our unmet needs as a society. It has become increasingly clear that we are highly dependent on the advancement of medical technologies to provide us with extensive prevention methods, efficient diagnosis techniques, and quick turnaround times in both an affordable and viable manner to meet our medical concerns. 

17 years ago, one ambitious Stanford drop-out went to great lengths to bridge a gap in our healthcare system that had the potential to drastically improve the landscape of medicine in the 21​stcentury.

In March of 2004, Elizabeth Holmes had just dropped out of Stanford University and established her Silicon Valley biotechnology company, Theranos Naotainer [1].

She pitched her invention, the Edison machine, as a semi-portable device that only needed a single pinprick of blood to perform hundreds of medical tests, from a routine cholesterol check to more involved genetic testing and cancer detection. The charismatic Ms. Holmes promised that the results would be faster, more accurate and far cheaper than the conventional methods used today.

To fund this initiative, Elizabeth Holmes was strategic in seeking out wealthy millionaires who were not versed with any medical knowledge and she solicited them for funding. News about this cutting-edge technology was spreading and it caught the attention of Walgreens and the Cleveland Clinic, inspiring them to adopt this technology [2]. She soon became an iconic figure, making buzz in the biotech industry and media, booking interviews and gracing the front page of renowned magazines such as Forbes — even earning the title of “the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.”

PHOTO: Elizabeth Holmes on the cover of "Forbes."
SOURCE: Forbes Magazine, 2015

Unfortunately, she did not hold this title for long as her magnetism did not translate to retaining employees or fostering a healthy work environment. She was seen as toxic by her employees who claimed that she would fire anyone that undermined her. In fact, according to The Verge, in 2016 she fired 340 members and in 2017 she fired 155 employees, nearly 40% of her staff [3]. However, what really tainted Theranos’ image was that Elizabeth Holmes became the subject of many investigations, most notably by Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton [4].

She was soon found guilty of fraud and indicted with federal charges [5]. Through deceit and manipulation she had made false promises of a technology that was out of reach and she had capitalized on funding from investors and buyers. Elizabeth had mastered the art of persuasion and fooled many with her imitation of a deep masculine voice and embodiment of other iconic figures such as the donning a classic Steve Jobs black turtleneck or the Mark Zuckerberg stare [6] However, behind closed doors she was using the conventional technology made by Siemens to run medical laboratory tests, meaning that there was no viable Theranos Edison device all along.

In conventional blood tests, typically several vials of blood are taken in order to ensure the accuracy of the results when running multiple tests. At Theranos, they were diluting the “pin prick” samples to mimic the standard sample volume of the standard tests.

Elizabeth’s manipulative and calculating mindset was able to take her farther than anyone could have imagined. Ultimately, she lacked the knowledge, experience and technology to make the Edison device a reality and her attempts to compensate for this downfall through fraud backfired. Amidst this cautionary tale lies one silver lining: to this day, Elizabeth Holmes is gaining attraction through New York Times Best Seller Books, HBO documentaries, articles, videos, and the memorable parody by the Late Late Show’s James Cordon.

It is important to ask, would such a technology have outstanding implications for the health of our society, especially given the current pandemic? Certainly. However, is such a biomedical feat within our reach? Not just yet.

While most of us would love to live in a world that does away with all the nuisances of blood tests (I think it’s fair to say that no one likes being poked with a needle), it seems like we will have to sit patient until our diagnoses can be performed with a single prick of blood, should that day ever come. 


  1. Damodaran A. The cautionary tale of theranos: Beware runaway stories. Forbes Magazine [Internet]. 2015 Nov 15 [cited 2021 Mar 1]; Available from: eranos-beware-runaway-stories/
  2. The New York Times. A Theranos Timeline. The New York times [Internet]. 2016 Jul 8 [cited 2021 Mar 1]; Available from:
  3. Vincent J. Theranos starts 2017 by firing 40 percent of its staff [Internet]. The Verge. 2017 [cited 2021 Mar 1]. Available from:
  4. Bilton N. How I got to the bottom of the theranos mess [Internet]. Vanity Fair. 2016 [cited 2021 Mar 1]. Available from:
  5. Solon O. Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes charged with criminal fraud. The guardian [Internet]. 2018 Jun 15 [cited 2021 Mar 1]; Available from: sh-balwani-criminal-charges
  6. Carreyrou J. Hot Startup Theranos has struggled with its blood-test technology. Wall Street journal (Eastern ed) [Internet]. 2015 Oct 15 [cited 2021 Mar 1]; Available from: 01