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A transforming advancement in medicine

More than half of the total patent in the 3D bioprinting space use extrusion bioprinter technology for bioprinting, and around 50 percent of patented technology relates to regenerative medicines and tissue defects.

The rise of bioprinting and bio-fabrication is the centre of awe in the medical and tissue engineering fields. The technique is set to redefine the future of healthcare with a focus on patient-specific treatment and increased life expectancies. Application of 3D printing and generative techniques in medicine has seen significant growth over the past decade. Pharmaceuticals have been capitalizing on such new technologies to speed up medicine to clinic process.

The evolving field of bioprinting and tissue fabrication has undergone a rapid academia-to-industry translation. Although, the practice of printing complete organs is yet to see transformation from research laboratories to industry, bioprinting has already been generating revenues from more expeditious, and yet diverse, applications. Its driving force being the potential and proven application in areas such as medical devices, drug discovery, regenerative medicine, cosmetics testing, personalized medicine, and food manufacturing.

In the field of biomedical devices, 3D bioprinting companies have introduced new developments such as improved drug delivery and sugar stents to help surgeons connect veins with fewer complications. The excitement due to the progress seen in 2019 makes it a great prospect in the coming years. It also takes us a step closer to the future possibility of producing viable, functional, and compatible organs and tissues on a scalable level.

3D printing enables fabrication of objects through the deposition of a material using a print head, nozzle, or another printer technology. It involves laying down successive layers of material which appears as thinly sliced horizontal cross-section to build the model and subsequently the object. Bioprinting is the combination of 3D printing and additive manufacturing techniques which uses cells, growth factors, and biomaterials to create biomedical parts to imitate natural characteristics of tissue to a great extent. This technology typically uses the layer-by-layer method to deposit materials known as to form tissue-like structures. Biomedical application of 3D printing has increasingly gained attention in the last decade due to the ability to control the placement of cells, biomaterials, and molecules for tissue regeneration.

Most bioprinting firms have established partnerships with research organizations, universities, and even government institutions, in an attempt to increase knowledge and research.

Bioprinting companies around the world are continuously introducing newer techniques and tools. The advancements in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, drug therapies, stem cell biology, and biotechnology are getting a lot of attention from the public as they are eager to reach the stage of better patient care, alternative organ transplants and customized medical treatments with 3D bioprinting. Most bioprinting firms have established partnerships with research organizations, universities, and even government institutions, in an attempt to increase knowledge and research.

Last year, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering developed a fast multimaterial 3D printer with a unique 3D printed printhead design. It allows users to seamlessly switch between multiple different materials with the lightning fast speed of up to 50 times per second. This Multimaterial Multinozzle 3D (MM3D) printing technology has the potential to revolutionize the process of printing complex structures. It is just one of the many advances that 3D bioprinting are coming up. A research team from Wyss is now using a customizable 3D bioprinting method to build a thick vascularized tissue structure build from human stem cells, collective matrix, and blood vessel endothelial cells. This innovative approach can be modified to fabricate various vascularized 3D tissues for regenerative medicine and drug testing. They have also developed the first entirely 3D-printed organ on a chip – a heart on a chip – with integrated soft strain sensors.

Global outlook
The 3D bioprinting market is projected to reach USD 1,647.4 million by 2024 from USD 651.6 million in 2019, at a CAGR of 20.4 percent from 2019 to 2024, predicts a MarketsandMarkets study.

The key players include Cyfuse Biomedical K.K., Japan; Stratasys Ltd., USA; EnvisionTEC GmbH, Germany; Cellink AB, Sweden; Poietis, France; Aspect Biosystems Ltd., Canada; Regenovo Biotechnology Co. Ltd., China; Organovo Holdings Inc., US; Allevi, USA; Fujifilm Wako Automation Corporation, USA; regenHu Ltd., Switzerland; and Nano3D Biosciences Inc., USA.

For the Asia Pacific region, the 3D bioprinting market is expected to grow at the fastest pace in the forthcoming years. This is chiefly attributed to the enormous range of opportunities, rapid developments in 3D printers, flourishing healthcare sector, and government funds for expediting the 3D printing research and technology advancement.

iOrthotics, Australia has been using 3D printers to manufacture tens of thousands of pairs of custom orthotics and braces annually. The company claims that 3D printing enabled them to save weeks in comparison to the old process for getting people back on their feet and has drastically reduced the waste output. The company had imported the machines from HP, India.

Poietis, a French biotechnology company offers two systems, NGB-R, a commercial 4D bioprinter designed for R&D use and the NGB-C to meet the clinical needs of its partners. The core NGB (Next Generation Bioprinting) technology is based on laser-assisted bioprinting technology which offers single-cell resolution and high cell viability. The printers are capable of 4D bioprinting by adapting to the natural timespan of biological processes including cell proliferation, migration and differentiation. NGB-C bioprinter enables the manufacturing of human living tissues in a closed system, under completely aseptic conditions, within an isolator.

Allevi offers a variety of biomaterials including the bioinks, bioink additives, cells, reagents and consumables to support the experiments and workflow. They have developed biolinks for liver, kidney, brain, skin, heart, and lungs, among other parts of the body.

A myriad of new advancements, partnerships and applications were seen in 2019 and the industry has continued to grow and evolve in 2020. The rising cases of COVID-19 infection and increasing prevalence of chronic diseases are some key factors contributing toward the market growth. In present situation, 3D printing has been implemented to meet the demand for medical products and essential items. For instance, students in Tunisia, Africa have developed 3D-printing face shields to aid the hospitals that are running out of supplies and an Army-Navy partnership in the US produced 3D-printed nasal swabs that can be used for Covid-19 testing. A group of scientists from Spain’s University of Huelva used 3D printing to create a spiral structure that is capable of removing 18 types of disinfection byproducts from drinking water.

Some newcomers have displayed promising technologies. At CES 2020, a start-up by a young inventor, Easton LaChappelle from New York unveiled a 3D-printed prosthetic arm for kids that is customized to match a patient’s skin tone.

TheWell Bioscience Inc., a New Jersey based biotech company focused on 3D cell culture, and has launched a series of xeno-free tunable bioink system, VitroINK in 2020. It does not require UV, temperature/pH curing or chemical crosslinking.

Volumetric, a start-up from the United States, is working on advanced bio-fabrication solutions using high-quality materials and systems for 3D bioprinting.

A myriad of new advancements, partnerships and applications
were seen in 2019 and the industry has continued to grow and evolve in 2020

Indian scenario
The wide adaptability of 3D printing technology and increasing demand in the healthcare sector has propelled the growing demand for products. More than half of the total patent in the 3D bioprinting space use extrusion bioprinter technology for bioprinting, and around 50 percent of patented technology relates to regenerative medicines and tissue defects.

Next Big Innovation Lab (NBIL), a Bengaluru-based startup established by four young entrepreneurs, were granted technology patent for precision bioprinting technology in August 2019. It is the first bioprinting company in India to build a completely customisable bioprinter to meet the needs of the Indian research community. They brought the unique 3D bioprinting technology of 3D skin tissue, through TRIVIMA – NBIL’s proprietary printer, to India to address the growing R&D needs of the healthcare sector. The 3D bio printing skin model provides an alternative for animal-free testing by cosmetic and FMCG companies. It can also have applications in various other segments of the health chain, including hospitals, companies that work with cells, clinicians and skin tissue research labs. The technology also allows the use of skin graft for skin injuries.

Pandorum Technologies, a Bangalore-based biotech company having raised ₹41 crore in September 2020 is focused on tissue technology and regenerative medicine. They have developed their proprietary technology platforms to design and manufacture functional, three-dimensional living human tissues with intended usage in medical research, therapeutic and other applications. Last year, Pandorum had bio-engineered human cornea tissue that can promote scarless healing of corneal wounds and vision restoration. The company is engaged in making organ replacement more affordable for Indians, by developing bio-engineered tissues.

Imaginarium, a large 3D printing and rapid prototyping Indian company has been working with a few collaborators to manufacture components in short supply during COVID-19 pandemic. They have used additive manufacturing techniques to create parts in record spans of time and are leveraging this speed to create face shields to meet increased demand.

Alfatek Systems, an IIT-IIM venture in rapid prototyping technologies and solutions has been working in the field of 3D bioprinting in India and is a leading manufacturer of FDM based 3D printers. There are over 40 installations of Alfatek bio 3D printers in India, mostly at prestigious institutions such as IITs, IISc, AIIMS, as well as other central Govt R&D institutions across major cities and Tega Industries.

Yet to catch on in India
The biomedical applications of 3D printing in-patient facilities have been a topic of intense discussion in the scientific communities, but additive manufacturing techniques are still considered rather new. The major obstacles to the implementation of 3D bioprinting method to the patients remain to be drug quality and safety issue. Another impediment is the scarcity of professionals skilled in the use of these advanced printing technologies.

The future of 3D lies in the realm of deep learning and quantum computing. The use of powerful deep learning algorithms for information retrieval and the creation of an organoid blueprint will ensure an end-to-end platform with an unprecedented and accelerated advancement of tissue fabrication reassuring the adaptability and compatibility between organ and host. The elements involved are rapid prototyping techniques: collagen, and gelatin, convolutional neural networks, evolutionary algorithm used for planning models based upon cellular processes a.k.a. simulation, genetic algorithm for DNA/RNA sequence assembly; and further development of mutation and adaptability to the host and pluripotent stem cells.

Researchers, manufacturers, and universities everywhere are showing a keen interest in advancing bioprinting technologies. Even though there is a long way to achieve full organs for transplantation and clinicians are still working to determine how these results will perform in a clinical setting, the potential use in therapeutic and regenerative medicine, and overall healthcare has made a huge impact. The upcoming technology of 4D bioprinting further ups the stage for the potential for greater strides in medicine and tissue regeneration. It has already started to show more control over pore size, shape, and interconnectivity. It can make a great difference not only to medicine, but to human life as well. The bioprinting business is promoting scientists and medical researchers to develop the tools to prototype, model, build, and solidify living human tissues.

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