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About Doser BV

  • Founders: Niels Ouwerkerk and Arjan van Unen
  • Founded in: 2019, Delft, the Netherlands
  • Employees: 4
  • Money raised: -
  • Ultimate goal: More effective treatments with fewer side effects through personalized medication for 10% of all patients.

Suppose you are sick and need medicine. But this medication does not appear to be available in the dose you need. Is there no way you can get better? Sure you can, is what Arjan van Unen (29) thought. “Then we will just print the right dosage!” He tells us more about it in this instalment of Start-up of the day.

Printing medication may sound futuristic, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Dutch start-up Doser uses a special 3D printing technology that enables it to print personalized medication.

Nespresso pill

“You have to see it as a kind of Nespresso machine,” says Van Unen. “We provide the machine and the refills, but ultimately it’s up to the pharmacist to make the cup of coffee by adjusting the machine. This enables them to make the perfect pill for the patient.” This month, the new prototype will be put into operation at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands. “This is a significant new step for the company,” according to Van Unen.

Van Unen is not new to the 3D printing world. He already noticed during his mechanical engineering studies at TU Delft that 3D printing could become huge. In order to capitalize on this, he started a raw material company for 3D printers. “I soon found out that customers preferred to buy the raw materials where they also bought the printer and that there was also a corresponding demand for service and maintenance.” So, he also started building printers and providing that service himself.

Doser

It was when Van Unen got in touch with Niels Ouwerkerk (49), who had extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry, that Doser was born. “Niels had plenty of ideas for improving the pharmaceutical industry and my printing technology was a good fit for that. An ideal partnership basically,” said Van Unen. In early 2021, Van Unen and Ouwerkerk decided to quit their then jobs and focus entirely on Doser. “Kind of exciting, when in the beginning you see the balance on your bank account shrinking and shrinking,” recalls Van Unen. “But fortunately, things have been going well since then.”

Advantages

Van Unen is tech-savvy and trained and definitely enthusiastic about the technical capabilities of printing technology. But he really starts to beam when talking about all the good his technology can do for patients. “Proper dosing of a drug is tremendously important,” he says. “Take the example of a patient who needs a drug that is 32 milligrams. He or she would then have to rely on a 25-milligram pill or a 50-milligram pill. Our technology can ensure that a patient gets exactly the dosage that they need.”

Also, read how medications with different active ingredients are being printed in 3D

This can be a matter of life and death. If a patient has undergone an organ transplant, the correct dosage of medication is crucial. In the future, Van Unen hopes to be helpful in these kinds of situations as well, where a precarious balance of medication is required. “It ought to be possible with our technology,” Van Unen explains full of enthusiasm.

Trust

That there is great potential in this technology is also evident from partners that Doser has attracted within a short period of time. The company has been able to apply for several innovation subsidies from, among others, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency and the province of South Holland and has gained the trust of the LUMC. ” All doors really opened for us in Leiden,” Van Unen notes. The pharmaceutical industry is also keen. The more efficient use of ingredients would also be (financially) attractive for that industry.

Still, a disruptive innovation of this sort is not immediately on everyone’s mind. “Nine out of ten people will say that you’re crazy, but I think that’s just part and parcel of the process,” says Van Unen. In the end, a bit of resistance is also necessary. “Without criticism and discussion, we, as a company, no longer have a right to exist.”

Photo: Niels Ouwerkerk (right) and Arjan van Unen

You can find more instalments of this series here.