Interview: Dr. Benjamin Holmes, CEO Nanochon

Dr. Ben Holmes is an entrepreneur, medtech executive, inventor, and scientist. He is the CEO and co-founder of Nanochon, which is commercializing a 3D printed cartilage implant for regenerating lost or damaged cartilage in joints. His academic background is in 3D printing and biomaterials for tissue engineering and regeneration. Ben is also a 3DHEALS community manager in the Washington, D.C. area. Ben will be speaking on the upcoming NAMIC/3DHEALS Startup Showcase.

3DHEALS has recently invested in Nanochon.

Jenny: Ben, please tell us a little about you.

Ben: I am an experienced medtech executive, developer, and entrepreneur. I have been a researcher and now a product developer for 3D printed medical devices since 2011. I have successfully led early-stage medical device companies since 2016.

Jenny: Where are you from and what are you working on? 

Ben: I grew up in Northern Virginia. I came to DC in 2009 to study at George Washington University, in Grace Zhang’s tissue engineering lab. When I founded my company in 2016, we stayed in DC to continue a research relationship with GWU and to pursue a collaboration with Children’s National Medical Center. My company Nanochon is developing a 3D printed porous and flexible implant for regenerating damaged cartilage in the knee. We were successful with securing essential development grants, and an SBIR from the National Science Foundation, and we just closed a $2M seed round to continue commercializing the technology.

Jenny: What made you decide to become a 3DHEALS community manager?

Ben: I have always had a passion for 3D printing, and all the unique benefits it can bring to healthcare. I first came into contact with 3DHeals at a conference in Washington DC and was impressed by the experience and passion displayed by the members I met. That motivated me to get more involved and made me want to share this important community with others.

Jenny: What do you think of innovations in healthcare 3D printing or bioprinting? What do you hope to see in the next five years? 10 years?

Ben: I think great progress has been made in the last 10 years, and there have been impressive examples of highly controlled, cell-supporting small-scale structures. I think improving speed and accuracy so these delicate small-scale structures can be produced throughout a large-scale implantable tissue is key. My hope is that new/cutting edge printing technology will be used to print new, biocompatible materials, at greater speeds and volumes.

Jenny: If you have done 3D printing before, what have you made/designed? 

Ben: My company is developing an implant for cartilage repair. It is a disk-like structure roughly the size of a coin, with the thickness of cartilage, designed to re-surface areas of a joint that has lost or damaged cartilage tissue. In my past research, I also used 3D printing to design and print structures for bone and micro-vascular tissues.

Jenny: Most of our community managers are entrepreneurial and adventurous, what risks/adventures have you taken that you’d like to share with us?

Ben: Starting my company! I think especially in the “long-term” implantable device space, there is a lot of clinical and financial risk, and it takes a lot of work before such companies are truly “fundable.” We had great early success with grants and SBIR funding and just closed our first institutional round. My hope is that we can continue to grow and get the funds we need, I think our technology really shines in this space, where there have been many failed attempts,and there is a clear need clinically, I will continue to share my vision with those who have the resources to help us get to the next level.

Jenny: Who would you like to find and include in the 3DHEALS community you are building?

Ben: Other young researchers and entrepreneurs like I was, who need talented and resourceful people to take an interest in them, guide them, and help them succeed. On the other side, I have loved to see the involvement of key industry players in medical 3D printing, and want to see 3D HEALS continue to be a place that can bring entrepreneurs and industry together.

Jenny: What would you like to accomplish with this new 3DHEALS community in the future?

Ben: I think building pipelines for 3D printed technology to get from the lab to the clinic is a must. I would love to see 3D HEALS become the premier networking event for doctors, researchers, investors, and strategic partners in the 3D printing space.

Jenny: What do you think about the innovation environment (for health tech or for general technology) in your city?

Ben: I have been impressed over the last 3-4 years. DC was lacking, when it comes to investors and financing interested in medical devices. But lately, there has been greatly renewed interest, supported largely by talented researchers and clinicains founding companies and staying in the area. I believe there is now a base of high value companies that is attracting investment and resources.

Jenny: What are you most proud of about your city?

Ben: I think DC has made great strides in the last 15-20 years to really become a vibrant and livable community.

Jenny: What are you most proud of about the innovation community in your city?

Ben: DC continues to be a cradle for generating great ideas, and the infrastructure to take them further is growing, supported by investors, industry, and world-class universities.

Jenny: What do you think are the top priorities in healthcare innovations for your city/community?

Ben: Improving patient outcomes through better clinical management and treatment efficiency. DC has in fact been a testbed for companies large and small focused on community health initiatives.

Jenny: What do you hope to accomplish through your role as the 3DHEALS community manager?

Ben: I want to do what I can to help  DC continue to grow and evolve its innovation ecosystem.

Jenny: What do you do for fun?

Ben: Before the pandemic, I enjoyed going to shows and concerts. But I have become sort of outdoorsy, enjoying hiking, camping, and other outdoor adventures. I also love to cook and travel.

Jenny: Anything else?

Ben: I can’t wait to help the DC 3DHEALS community thrive!

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