Interview: Jae Yoo, Chief Technology Officer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals Co.

Dr. Jae Yoo has been focused on the application of 3DP in R & D and pharmaceutical manufacturing. His 3DP journey began at MIT in the early 1990s, where he developed and used a 3DP process based on inkjet printing to produce advanced ceramic materials with a composition gradient. He will be a speaker at the healthcare 3D printing panel during in(3D)ustry event in Barcelona with 3DHEALS.






Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Jae:  Fall of 1991.  I was a first-year graduate student at MIT.  I was attending a new graduate student reception for the Materials Science Department when Prof. Michael Cima (one of the fathers of binder jetting at MIT along with Prof. Ely Sachs) described the process to me.  It first sounded improbable, then interesting, then magical.  I ended up spending the next five years under Prof. Cima for my Ph.D. dissertation.


Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?

Jae:  I finished my doctoral thesis defense on a Friday afternoon in June of 1996.  I started working for Therics Inc., one of the licensees of MIT’s 3DP process, on a Monday morning.  Applying the process to help patients live healthier and longer seemed like the best use of my Ph.D. work.  While at Therics, I ended up exploring a wide range of applications including tissue repair and drug delivery systems.  When Therics decided to only focus on tissue repair products, I took the plunge with a couple of colleagues to start Aprecia Pharmaceuticals to continue pursuing the goal of commercializing 3D printed pharmaceutical products.

copyright: researchgate

ZipDose piller

copyright: researchgate

Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?

Jae:  Commercializing 3D printed pharmaceutical dosage form involves many challenges.  Speeding up the 3DP process to pharmaceutically relevant throughput level required re-imagining a batch process into one that behaves continuously in some ways.  Ensuring that all 3D printed dosage forms exhibit critical quality attributes not only when produced, but in various storage conditions for years required an enormous level of testing and careful process control.  Paving the regulatory pathway as the first (and currently the only) FDA approved pharmaceutical product took much planning and commitment to see things through.  Aprecia’s solutions involved (and continues to involve) monitoring and controlling of key inputs into the system, process parameters, and extensive documentation thereof.


Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?

Jae:  Distributed manufacturing of personalized dosage units may be the Holy Grail of pharmaceutical 3D printing.  It presents challenges in reliability, security, PAT (process analytical technology), and regulatory acceptance.  Significant gaps exist in PAT that can effectively replace QC analysts with in-line, real-time release of products coming off of 3DP-based production systems.


Jenny:  What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?

Jae:  Invest 75 minutes of your time and watch Prof. Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” (the long form given at Carnegie Mellon, not the abridged version through Oprah show).


Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community , what message would that be?

Jae:  Future is already here.  It is just not evenly distributed yet. William Gibson


Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?

Jae:  Training intelligent, hardworking young engineers to think through about the effects of each input and process parameters on the output of the 3DP process.


Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?

Jae:  First full-scale harvester (for separating unprinted powder from finished tablets in a binder jetting process) we designed and built had a very short useful life.  Not long after building the first harvester, we identified simpler, faster, and more effective way to accomplish the task.


Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?

Jae:  Leaving a relatively comfortable position at Therics, a company that was pioneering 3D printed tissue repair products, to start Aprecia Pharmaceuticals in 2003 was a huge leap.  We knew we had to solve the throughput problem to become relevant in the pharma industry.  Although we did not know exactly how to speed up the process then, I had confidence that Hank (Dr. Henry Surprenant, my mentor/colleague/co-founder) and I would find a way.  It worked out and we achieved more than a hundredfold increase in throughput.


Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why? Man in the arena by Theodore Roosevelt

Jae:  “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

It reminds me what it takes to get things done and how easy it is to become a critic.




  • Hello, we would like to buy your white paper “Biocompatible 3D Printing Meical Device”. The shop is not working since the beginning of September. It would be great if you could come back to us. Thank you very much! Olga