The device, invented by Microchips Biotech co-founders Michael Cima and Robert Langer, consists of hundreds of pinhead sized reservoirs, each capped with a metal membrane, that store tiny doses of therapeutics or chemicals. An electric current delivered by the device removes the membrane, releasing a single dose. According to the company, the device can be programmed wirelessly to release individual doses for up to 16 years to treat a range of conditions.
Microchips Biotech has made several innovations in MEMS manufacturing to ensure the device could be commercialised. A major innovation was enabling final assembly with hermetic seals at room temperature. Any intense heat during final assembly could destroy the drugs loaded into the reservoirs – which meant common methods were off limits.
The solution was the modification of a cold welding 'tongue and groove' process, in which a soft gold alloy was deposited in patterns to create tongues on top and grooves on the base. By pressing the top and base pieces together, the tongues fit into the grooves and deform plastically to weld the metal together.
The company has also found ways to integrate electronics into the microchips to shrink the device. Moving forward, said Langer, the company could refine the devices to be even smaller, yet carry the same volume of drugs. "This means making the drugs take up more volume [than] the electrical and other components. That's the next major challenge."