Dr. Karolina Valente: VoxCell BioInnovation

Dr. Karolina Valente has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. She has deep expertise in tissue engineering, 3D bioprinting, and oncology. Karolina has published multiple peer-reviewed papers and is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor at the University of Victoria and the CEO & CSO of VoxCell BioInnovation. Dr. Karolina Valente will be sharing his experiences at our virtual event 3D Bioprinting Cancer.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D bioprinting?

Karolina: My first encounter with 3D Printing was during my PhD in 2015. My PhD supervisor had a FDM printer and most of mechanical engineering students in the group were printing something fun. At that point, the field was still being seen a bit as recreational/hobbiest. 

My first encounter with a 3D bioprinter was in 2017 (I think), when I saw the RX1 live during a training session. That blew my mind. I just remembering thinking “omg, this is the future. But it needs to get better, be more straightforward and a less steep learning curve”.

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in bioprinting/biofabrication?

Karolina: The combination of additive manufacturing with biomaterials and living organisms is the perfect representation of what I believe to be true: the future is interdisciplinary. In my mind, complex concepts cannot be simply solved without involving different fields.

I was always fascinated by bioprinting, but I still thought people were not there yet. I sincerely thought that putting machines in the market without a defined purpose was the incorrect direction for the field. 

The bioprinting field has to move from the simple structures into the complex representation of tissues. That is what inspired me to start VoxCell.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in bio-printing/bio-fabrication?

Karolina: The person who inspired me to go into this field was my mother. She had breast cancer when I was a kid. That made me pursue my PhD in this area and explore 3D bioprinting as a form of mimicking cancer tissues. 

Now the inspiration comes from the amazing team at VoxCell. It has been extremely rewarding seeing young minds working hard and together for a common cause. They keep me going and grounded.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work? 

Karolina: My amazing team. They are the reason I try hard every day. 

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

Karolina: The biggest challenge is still the introduction of 3D bioprinted tissues in the drug development industry. The drug development industry is quite cemented, and the process has not changed for a long time. The FDA Modernization Act of 2021 is giving us hope.

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)?

Karolina: Mimicking the real complexity of a human tissue/organ. I believe the solution goes beyond multi-material combinations. I strongly believe the solution is multi-technology: the combination of multiple techniques will allow the creation of complex high-resolution structures in the areas required, while also accelerating the printing with low-resolution regions using extrusion.

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

Karolina: Advice: challenge the field and don’t believe in everything you read in the literature. There is always room for improvement and good ideas are born out of necessity.

Bad advice they should ignore: “there is already a lot of people working on this” or “why do you think you could do better, when there are people from MIT, Harvard, Stanford that have not yet figure it out?” or “This is too hard of a problem” 

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