When confronted with a technology as game-changing as 3D-printing, it’s hard to keep your mind from going to darkest, most nefarious places. But it’s not all Wikiweapons and weird sex toys: witness the researchers of Parabon Nanolabs, who are using tiny, tiny printers to attempt to cure cancer.

Using a system they call the Assemblix Drug Development Platform, Parabon researchers are 3D-printing trillions of copies of medicine molecules from scratch, after using a “drag-and-drop” design interface to test potential combinations against simulated cancer cells. The process allows them to research, design, and produce a drug on a molecular level within a matter of days. Eventually, they hope to find a cure for glioblastoma multiforme, a potentially lethal brain cancer.

“We can now ‘print,’ molecule by molecule, exactly the compound that we want,” said Steven Armentrout, co-developer of the Assemblix technology. “What differentiates our nanotechnology from others is our ability to rapidly, and precisely, specify the placement of every atom in a compound that we design.”

(Image: widdowquinn/Flickr)