Interview with Nick Allan: StarFish Medical

Nick Allan is the Bio Services Manager at StarFish Medical. Allan joined the company as a Project Manager, becoming Bio Service Manager in 2016. He has provided innovative solutions to client issues ranging from proof-of-concept studies for rapid detection point of care assays to full-scale regulatory submission studies, and designed and facilitated more than 500 Unique Research Protocols. Allan is President of Chinook Contract Research, co-founder and former GM of The Institute for Applied Poultry Technologies, and former Contract Research Manager at Innovotech Inc. Allan holds an MS in Microbiology and BS in Biology from the University of Guelph. Nick will be speaking at our upcoming event focusing on Microfluidics, Technology, Commercialization.

Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like?

Nick: I had the opportunity to work with a 3D printer 6 years ago when my (at the time 6-year-old) daughter was introduced to one at an introduction to STEM event sponsored at the University of Victoria.  It was a limited experience to see some basic CAD and translation into a simple print.  My thought was that the world my daughter will grow up in will be much different than the one I grew up in due to the availability of 3D printing technology. 

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing? 

Nick: I have been a microbiologist for over 20 years and my work has been focused on evaluating microbial interactions with implanted medical devices.  3D printed materials and now tissues and organs fall into this space.  The techniques use to aseptically manipulate cultures are in demand in the 3D printing space and evaluation of the materials’ interactions with microorganisms was the impetus for the start of my journey with 3D printing. 

Jenny: Who inspired you the most?

Nick: My inspiration for this work was the late Terry Beveridge my supervisor in graduate school.  He was a renowned Canadian Microbiologist and his passion and curiosity for learning and embracing advanced technologies to improve our understanding of the world continues to inspire me to this day.  The incredible work being done by the new generation of researchers like Sam Wadsworth at Aspect Biosciences, Stephanie Willerth with Axolotl and Nick Dechev with the Victoria Hand project is continuing to inspire me and keep me on this journey. 

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?  

Nick: The promise of improving the future of medical device development.   Improving the quality of life. 

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

Nick: Not enough hours in the day/have not cloned me.  Haven’t conquered it yet…stay tuned.

Jenny: What do you think is the biggest challenge in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)? 

Nick: Regulatory framework being able to keep up with the new technology.  For example, how will the FDA deal with the regulatory approval of a 3D-printed organ from autologous sources?  Is it a medical device?  If so, is the predicate your own kidney?  The point is that the technology is developing at such a rapid pace, the regulatory framework that we rely on to keep medical devices safe will need to match the pace of this development and there are bound to be mistakes along the way. 

Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be? 

Nick: Eliminate the need for sleep, equality for all, unlimited access to an EnvisionTec 3D manufacturer series bioplotter system.

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

Nick: Have confidence in yourself.  When going after Moby Dick…bring along the tartar sauce!  Bad advice to ignore:  stick to a career path that fully utilizes your degree.

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