Interview: Dr. Alejandro Fernández

Dec 19, 2017

Dr. Alejandro Fernández obtained his PhD degree in Chemistry in 2004 (University of Oviedo-Spain), extending his R&D activities in UK (Bristol University) and in the pharmaceutical company Janssen Cilag. In 2008, he improved his area of knowledge coordinating and developing R&D projects for Technology Centers, first linked to the chemical & textile sector (ASINTEC Technological Centre) and in 2011, joining to the PRODINTEC staff. Since 2013, he is coordinating the 3D bioprinting area in PRODINTEC focused on the customization of 3D bioprinters according to properties and requirements of bio inks and biomaterials that will be printed.
He is the author of different scientific publications, books and patents majority of them focused on the chemical field. In addition, he has been coordinating and managing R&D projects under different funding structures. In this sense, titles such as DRESS4SCARS-“New 4d printing dressing to treat skin scars”, HUMANINKS-“Research and development of corneal tissues by 3D printing from human-origin bio inks”, CUSTOM 3D-“Research and development of customized 3D printers for strategic sectors: from bioprinting to biosensor” and BIOPRINTERS-“Design and development of bioprinters for tissue engineering processes” are some examples related to the 3D bioprinting area.

Q: How did you first encounter 3D printing? What was the story?

A: I joined PRODINTEC in 2011, which was my first encounter with 3D printing. PRODINTEC is a technological center focused (mainly) on 3D printing. Therefore, 3D printing is part of our daily activity.

Q: What inspired you to use or work with 3D printing?

A: Seeking new 3D printing applications, we started the 3D bioprinting history in 2013. New ideas, new possibilities and 3D printing sectors closest to my previous academic background: I am an organic chemist (PhD).

Q: What is the biggest motivation for your work?

A: To achieve new developments for our business model: customization of 3D printers for strategic sectors.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in your work?

A: To establish good consortiums. We pay attention to the machine and we have realized very clearly that is necessary to create multidisciplinary teams with biochemical, medical, material developers, and other experts.

Q: How do you plan to conquer this challenge?

A: It is very important to carry out networking activities in order to exchange experiences and ideas in order to achieve good projects and developments. We need to transfer our “philosophy”; there is not a universal 3D bioprinter, because there is not a universal bioink….so, it is necessary to customize those 3D bioprinters.

Q: What is your vision on the potential impact of your current work to the future of medicine?

A: Currently, 3D bioprinting is a dream for tissues engineers …but this dream could/should change the medicine. For example, the possibility to create customized tissue could be the best alternative for organ transplants.

Q: What is the biggest change/improvement since last year this time?

A: The biggest change? In my opinion, mentality. I think that during the last year (year and a half) more and more people are feeling that 3D bioprinting is an alternative in more and more tissues and application possibilities. It is like, hey, is it possible that the dream is closer than I thought? 

Q: What are you passionate about?

A: Professionally, all the new developments around customizing drugs with 3D bioprinting. Personalized dosing for potent/specific drugs, “polypill” concept for people that need to take several pills every day, drugs with limited shelf lives, etc. It is a wonderful challenge.

Q: What is the biggest risk you took in your career?

A: Risk?? None. No, I assumed a radical change. I left the chemical research area seeking new alternatives to complement my career. So, more risk that this change….

Q: What do you enjoy in your spare time?

A: Spare time? With two babies…What is that? (Laughing). The idea is to be as comfortable as possible: good friends and good food & drink. This is the perfect plan. And of course, you know the slogan, I love this game! Basketball forever!!

Q: What else do you want to share with us?  

A: I want to invite you to Asturias. Wonderful region…And of course, welcome to PRODINTEC to chat in deep about 3D printing.

Fig 1: a) design of customized machine; b) customized printhead

Fig 2: Different printhead designed and manufactured by 3D printing technologies at home.