Interview with Dr. Wilson Wong: Novus Life Sciences

Dr. Wilson Wong is a healthcare-focused entrepreneur with a PhD, MPhil, and BEng from the University of Hong Kong, specializing in biomechanics, biomaterials, and bone-related diseases. He also completed technopreneurship training at IECT, University of Cambridge, supported by Dr. Hermann Hauser. In 2014, he founded NOVUS Life Sciences Limited, where he currently serves as Chairman and CEO. NOVUS, a global leader in 3D printing biomaterials, operates cutting-edge manufacturing facilities in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. The company supplies to 35+ countries and 65+ corporate clients, supporting the production of patient-specific implants and devices. Wilson is actively engaged in the startup ecosystem and dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship education. He has been a featured speaker and lecturer at institutions and Bloomberg. Under his leadership, NOVUS has received numerous prestigious awards, including Champion of IMAGINE IF!, CNBC’s hottest startups, and accolades from GIN Austria, French Tech Ticket, and Alibaba Jumpstarter. Dr. Wong will be a speaker at the event focusing on bioprinting and biofabrication of musculoskeletal tissues.

When was your first encounter with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?

Wilson: I first encountered 3D printing at university about 20 years ago, when it was compulsory to learn about its applications in rapid prototyping. However, I was thinking about how it could become an actual manufacturing process instead of prototyping. 

What inspired you to start your journey?

Wilson: With a background in biomaterials and working on PEEK composites for orthopedics applications back in 2006, which earned me a paper in Biomaterials in 2009, and together with the journey of biomaterials startup in 2014, I started to realize that the market actually needs 3D printing ready biomaterials for fabrication of various implants. I saw the trend in 2017 and felt like it would be the next big thing in the medical device industry. As such, my company shifted the focus to making various medical-grade 3D printer filaments and even resin. Whether it is bio-printing, soft or hard, the industry must tackle the challenges in production and registration. Therefore, we invested a lot in the factory and quality management system to provide filaments as high-quality medical products or raw materials. As we grow with the clients who print the implant, having the strong foundation to execute the whole project globally will prepare us for the future if there is any chance of having bio-printing (cell-based) as a routine practice. As printing with filament for hard tissue has gained traction recently, I expect bio-printing will still have a long way to go, like ten years, if the industry and the end clients call for the big move, and not to forget the support from the regulatory bodies like what they have done for ATMP (Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products) in general. 

Who inspired you the most along this journey?

Wilson: I think my clients spanning around the world have provided us a very clear global picture of what people need, what the manufacturers are capable of… so on. We must understand the whole supply chain and the product development life cycle in order to prepare us and the industry for the medical 3D printing or future 3D bio-printing with cell or gel. 

What motivates you the most for your work? 

Wilson: It has been extremely hard to start a biomaterial company that supplies globally and competes with the petrochemical giants or device giants. Yet, making our products to the market and saving hundreds of lives so far are the most significant motivations. It is also my team’s pleasure to earn the recognitions and endorsements from leading hospitals and institutions. The University of Oxford is now our routine client, together with National University Hospital in Singapore. 

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

Wilson: From R&D to product, it is always the most challenging part. Most companies handle just one product line or are limited to a few. At NOVUS, we handle a wide range of biomaterials, and the difficulties multiply. We can now market a new product with the new formulation in around 3-6 months, depending on the level of tech required. Having an industrial-grade reactor, freeze dryer, and all you need in biomaterials production under a regulated cleanroom with QMS is crucial to making these happen. As such, NOVUS has successfully simplified and consolidated biomaterials production on a large scale. 

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)?

Wilson: In medical 3D printing, it has already achieved a big success worldwide, we are now waiting regulators in more countries to adapt to this new trend. There will still be a long way to go for bio-printing. Being good on journals doesn’t usually imply an easy success. The solution must demonstrate its efficacy at good marginal benefits. The industry and the end clients will take a long time to make bio-printing a new treatment routine. Someone must select an excellent medical indication, develop the first market-viable product, and try it clinically before talking about a booming bio-printing industry segment. 

If you were granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Wilson: If related to this topic:

  • Give me more resources to solve biomaterials problems. 
  • Gather a much bigger group of people to solve these problems.
  • More regulators and government green light to use advanced technologies will be great. 

What advice would you give to an intelligent driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice have you heard they should ignore? 

Wilson: It is good to follow what they want to do and to be the best in what they do. Don’t just follow the market trend and do things you don’t want to do. 

What’s your favorite book you read this year and why? Alternatively, what’s your favorite book of all times you read and why?

Wilson: Indeed I read a lot on Wikipedia and Youtube, and even Reddit. It is the fastest way to learn a lot of stuff up to a level that I can solve day to day problems. I have a Youtube and Reddit daily routine, especially reading how people play around with 3D printing, what they are looking for and what they have done to solve the printing or material problems. 

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