How Far Ahead: A Look Back at 2018 in the World of Bioprinting

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Nothing excites me more than to see the progress we have made in the world of bioprinting. It really hasn’t been that long ago when the first idea of bioprinted organs came about, since then many research groups have jumped onto the bandwagon of bioprinting, and in the last 5 years, we have witnessed the burst of bioprinting companies that spun out of academic labs. To evaluate where we are today, here’s a quick recap of the progress made in 2018, by companies and research institutes propelling the bioprinting industry. 

On research innovations, several companies announced key scientific milestones that are fulfilling the promises of bioprinting. In April 2018, Organovo announced key breakthrough developments in their bioprinted liver tissue models for evaluating a spectrum of liver diseases and intestinal tissue models. This breakthrough is allowing researchers to develop new drugs for non-alcoholic fatty liver tissue diseases (NAFLD) more effectively at early stage development. One of the newest bioprinting startups, Biolife4D, announced their success in bioprinting a human cardiac patch, achieving a major milestone demonstrating their ability to 3D print human cardiac tissue derived from induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology. Our local Bay Area resident bioprinting company, Prellis Biologics, co-founded by two female scientists, announced the first pre-vascularized tissue scaffolds, Tissue Blanks TM designed for building complex 3D cell and tissue constructs. This is another major milestone which has, in the past, prohibited researchers to build larger constructs due to the lack of vasculature.

How far ahead: A look back at 2018 in the world of bioprinting
  Photo 1: Prellis’s vascular tissue blanks (left) and tumor organoid blanks (right). (courtesy of Prellis Biologics)

On the technology side, more innovative platforms are being developed. Poietis, a French-based bioprinting company, announced the launch of their next generation laser-assisted 4D bioprinting system. Aether, another Bay Area resident company, announced their new AI-powered 3D medical imaging software designed to enhance bioprinting capabilities, especially for organ printing. Allevi partnered up with Made in Space to create the first zero-gravity tissue 3D printer (Allevi ZeroG) and Cellink announced their partnership with Prellis Biologics to create the first holograph-based volumetric 3D bioprinter, Holograph-X. Both equally exciting developments in the bioprinting world to be looking forward to in perhaps 2019. 

The year of 2018 was also a year where more research collaborations are being made. Aspect Biosystems announced several academic collaborations with various universities including a project to 3D-bioprint skin with Dalhouise University. In addition, they also announced a collaboration with JSR corporation to create liver tissue. Poietis also partnered with Prometheus to develop high precision 3D bioprinting of tissue engineered advanced therapeutic medical products for skeletal regeneration. The Advanced Materials + BioEngineering Research (AMBER) center headquartered in Dublin has partnered with JnJ to tackle osteoarthritis by bioprinting implants that regenerate. 

How Far Ahead: A Look Back at 2018 in the World of Bioprinting
 Photo 2: ZeroG bioprinter (courtesy of Allevi3D)

On the funding side, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued $2.6M in grants toward 3D bioprinting and biomedical research last year. Awardees included Harvard University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Rutgers University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Oxford spin-out bioprinting company, Oxsybio raised $10M GBP (~$14M USD) in Series A funding last year. Biolife4D initiated their Regulation A+ equity crowdfund investment offering in February 2018, this round is expected to close end of January 2019. 

With so much progress being made already in 2018, I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for us in this coming year. Companies and academics in the field are increasing collaborative efforts to bring together a convergence of technologies and knowledge that is only going to help us make in-roads and continued progress in healthcare and regenerative medicine.

About the author:

Mayasari Lim

Dr. Mayasari Lim is the West Coast Regional Account Manager for RoosterBio and an active contributor to the bioprinting community. She was 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.

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