Interview: Yi Arnold, Theradaptive

Yi Arnold, Ph.D. is the Director of Business Development and R&D of Theradaptive. Theradaptive is a regenerative medicine startup that has developed a platform for targeted delivery of potent regenerative therapeutics for tissue regeneration. Theradaptive is combining the latest 3D printing technology with its biologic delivery platform to design implants mimicking the native ECM for better and faster tissue repair and regeneration. Current programs include long bone repair, spine fusion, dental & CMF repair, and osteochondral repair. Prior to Theradaptive, Yi was a VP at Esco Venture, a Singapore-based Venture Capital group and a Director at Osiris Therapeutics, managing their wound care portfolio. Yi started her industry career at Kinetic Concepts, Inc. and has since developed and brought to market 3 human tissue-based products for wound repair, estimated at over $100 million yearly revenue. Yi holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering, a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and received her postdoc training at Yale and Columbia University. Yi currently resides in Ellicott City, MD with her husband and two girls. She loves to run marathons in her spare time and is excited to be running the BMW Berlin Marathon in 2019! Yi will be speaking at our upcoming DC event. 

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

Yi Arnold: I think it was a couple of years ago, I saw a news story on TV mentioning a father who bought a 3D printer at home to print different kinds of prosthetic arms and hands for his child who lost his arm in a car accident. The printer was only a couple of hundred dollars. He even printed out a Spiderman design – I remembered. It melted my heart and I thought that was really cool. It also got me wondering: when can the printer print something sterile and biological so we could use it inside a human being?   

Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?

Yi Arnold: My colleague Dr. Todd Heil is the 3d printing guru on the team, from whom I learn a little bit about 3D printing every day. My current company, Theradaptive, is using 3D printing to enable highly targeted biologic delivery to create scaffolds for protein and cell delivery for orthopedic regeneration and sports medicine. Our current product development focuses on 3D printed bioactive tissue substitutes that are custom-designed, have mechanical and physical properties similar to native tissue, and can safely deliver the most potent growth factors and cells, for tissue repair and regeneration.

Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing (bio-printing/bio-fabrication)? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.

Yi Arnold: Patients. Our ultimate goal is to 3D print a tissue patch, or a filler, or a structure that custom fits a patient’s defect area perfectly.

Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?

Yi Arnold: My previous job at Osiris allowed me to visit the OR and physician’s offices where patients undergo treatment and follow-ups. It was very rewarding to hear a story of a 68-year-old veteran who was finally able to walk because our product helped to heal a 49-year-old wound on his leg.

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

Yi Arnold: We have to overcome the challenges that small companies face when raising capital and navigating the FDA regulatory landscape.

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)?

Yi Arnold: A universal bioink development for various therapeutic areas and its readiness for mass production.

Theradaptive’s focus is to develop print cassettes with nano-particle bioactivity additives of a large variety of growth factors, known for their tissue repair and regeneration capacity. The content of these cassettes are scale-up ready, bioprintable, and remain bioactive after printing.

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

Yi Arnold:  

    • I wish nobody ever needs to go to the hospital.
    • I wish there were a switch in the brain that could easily switch the mind between work and life when needed.
    • I wish people could be transported to their destinations in seconds.

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

Yi Arnold: I would advise them to be patient and to constantly seek learning opportunities from others.

Bad advice I heard was to encourage young kids to jump between jobs every 6 months.

Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?

Yi Arnold: 3D printing and bio-fabrication will play a significant role in ending human suffering due to disease and injury.

Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?

Yi Arnold: Hiring the best talent we could find in 3D printing.

Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?

Yi Arnold: Not moving fast enough to adopt 3D printing. 

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

Yi Arnold: I switched my major from mechanical engineering to biomedical engineering when I came to the US for grad school. Learning a brand new field in a different country, and speaking an entirely different language was not that easy in the beginning. But it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.

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

Yi Arnold: Enjoy spending time with my two girls and doing long runs with friends. I have run 5 marathons so far and am going to run the BMW Berlin Marathon this year.  I am passionate about coaching runners and helping them to reach their goals.

Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?

Yi Arnold: Know thyself. How I switched my career from ME to BME, from China to the US, from basic science to industry has a bit of serendipity, but mostly through a process of self-reflection, to know what motivates me the most and keeps going at it.

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

Yi Arnold:  Use 3D printing technology to “heal” patients!