Interview with Joshua Neubert, NASA Vascular Tissue Challenge (Video)

Apr 05, 2020

Mr. Joshua Neubert has extensive experience managing entrepreneurial non-profit organizations, incentive prize competitions, educational programs, and startup enterprises. In 2012, he founded the Institute of Competition Sciences to create an online community and support system for academic competitions. His passions center on accelerating science, technology, and learning to make the world a more knowledgeable and inspiring place. Through the Institute of Competition Sciences, Mr. Neubert developed the Summit on Incentivized Innovation, launched the first collaborative community for challenge-based- learning, and helped develop and manage high-profile prizes providing over $8,000,000 in awards through partnerships with the Cleantech Open, Lemelson Foundation, NASA, Ideas42 and the Robinhood Foundation, Goodwill, Duke University, New Mexico State University, the Methuselah Foundation, the Actuarial Foundation, and others. Mr. Neubert has been a National Science Foundation Principal Investigator and has organized science, technology, engineering, and mathematics policy workshops with the NIH, HHS, NSF, NASA, and White House OSTP among others. Prior to founding ICS, Mr. Neubert helped NASA launch a $1.5 Million energy storage competition for advanced aerospace technologies. He previously led a team of over 500 volunteers and staff at the X PRIZE Foundation to create a STEM education program reaching 12,000 students. During this time, he developed the Spirit of Innovation Awards – a science and technology entrepreneurship competition for high school students – and later helped spin the program out as its own foundation built upon the legacy of Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad. He served as the founding Executive Director of the Conrad Foundation and launched the program into schools across the country reaching over 3000 students in its first three years. Mr. Neubert has designed and led grand challenges, hackathons, game jams, and other incentivized innovation programs for over 10 years and has served as Founder and CEO of the Institute of Competition Sciences since its founding in 2012.  He was trained as a Planetary Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and continues to hold space science and exploration as a passion in his life. Mr. Neubert is a regular instructor, public speaker, and lecturer in entrepreneurship, innovation, and education topics particularly related to science and technology fields. Josh will be speaking at 3DHEALS2020.

Interview Video:

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

Joshua: I am not a biofabrication researcher myself, my career is more in the innovation generation space. I am a scientist by education but have turned my career to innovative project development and management. I love working on amazing things that have the potential to create really revolutionary changes. Bioengineering and particularly 3D bioprinting was introduced to me several years ago and I thought it was one of the most amazing opportunities to create change for good that I’ve ever seen.

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

Joshua: Anthony Atala’s work on bioprinting organs has been very inspiring to me. His ability to jump-start the whole field by demonstrating the transplantation of living, working organs (thin-walled like the bladder, trachea, etc…) was a revolutionary step. And his ability to tell the story about this was really inspiring.

Maya: Can you share some of your early successes and failures in your work that change how you approach your work/research today?

Joshua: Our work has been focused on creating new programs that help focus and incentivize the work in bioengineering to tackle critical challenges on the road towards ending the organ shortage through biofabrication of new tissues and organs. As we aren’t a research group ourselves, our successes and failures have been more around program development. For example, we started our effort in the New Organ Alliance by launching a $1M Liver Engineering Prize. We quickly realized that this prize was well ahead of its time. The hurdle we were asking to be solved was too far down the road. However, this led to the development of a “Roadmap to ending the Organ Shortage.” The roadmap identified 13 high-level challenges, and we were able to use this roadmap to bring NASA into our network to support our second prize, the Vascular Tissue Challenge which has been very successful in focusing research groups on the critical need to be able to create thick, vascularized tissues.

Maya: What is the biggest obstacle you have faced? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?

Joshua: Funding. It seems that the research groups are there, they are ready to go, they are focused and interested in getting to the final destination, but the funding just isn’t there. We’re working on solving this, but it is still a major challenge. Our solutions have primarily focused on combining government and private funding, and focusing our attention on leveraging resources through incentivized innovation.

Maya: If you can go back 5 or 10 years, what would you do differently?

Joshua: Do the roadmap first before jumping into the Liver Prize. Focus early on the development and promotion of the critical hurdles ahead in the bioengineering space. This has really helped us focus our work and bring others together around common challenges.

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

Joshua: Talk to people. Don’t just sit in the lab. Work with your advisor to connect with others and build your network in the field. Learn from many mentors and think about what role your research could play in a bigger picture that the whole industry is interested in.

Maya: What is the biggest challenge you are facing in 2020 and how do you plan to overcome this?

Joshua: Funding. The coronavirus has made it extremely difficult to keep programs like ours growing. We are continuing to work with government partners and new philanthropic groups to explore our next steps.

Maya: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?

Joshua: Left my Ph.D. research to join a non-profit organization focused on incentivized innovation. This changed the whole trajectory of my career.

Maya: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?

Joshua: Space exploration and science fiction, and gaming. I love fantasy and sci-fi games, books, and movies. I’d love to actually go to the moon or mars one day.

Maya: What gets you up in the morning every day? 

Joshua: My alarm (I also like bad jokes). But really, I get excited every day about doing things that matter to other people. It’s a bit narcissistic that I like having other people like me, and like the things, I’m doing, but I think I’m doing really cool things. And so long as I can keep working on programs that make a difference for people, that gets me going in the morning.

Maya: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you?  =)

Joshua: I like that it has such a breadth to it. There is so much that can be done with “3D” and “Heals” it isn’t just about bioprinting but is about all the other ways that it can be used in healthcare. This multi-disciplinary connection around a common theme really seems to bring a great group of people together.

About the Interviewer:

Mayasari Lim is the West Coast Regional Account Manager for RoosterBio and an active contributor to the bioprinting community. She was the founder and CEO of SE3D, a startup focused on bringing bioprinting into the classroom to support future workforce development. Previously, she was an assistant professor in Bioengineering at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Her research expertise included stem cell bioprocess engineering, bioprinting, and regenerative medicine. She also mentors and teaches leadership and management courses at the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership at UC Berkeley. Dr. Lim obtained her Ph.D. degree in Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London and her B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley. She is 3DHEALS Bioprinting Ambassador as well as a speaker and moderator for 3DHEALS2020.

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