Mar. 8, 2015 | By Kira
Millenials, also known as Generation Y, or those born between the 1980s-2000s, are generally seen as a lazy and entitled, too busy checking their Facebook statuses to engage in the world around them. But for Ricardo Solorzano, 25, and Daniel Cabrera, 22, that stereotype couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The young University of Pennsylvania graduates have developed a desktop 3D bioprinter that fabricates the 3D structure of human tissue and could eventually be used to 3D print functional human organs for those in need of transplants.
They’ve described their startup, BioBots, as the “future of regenerative medicine,” and their goal is to bring affordable, accessible, and easy-to-use desktop bioprinting to scientists, engineers, physicians and DIY biologists—in short, to be the “PC of bioprinters.”
The current BioBot model is a 12x12 inch printer that sells for $5,000— significantly smaller and cheaper than traditional bioprinters already on the market, which can cost upwards of $200,000 dollars and require an entire team of scientists to operate. “There are other tissue-engineering devices, but to really accelerate development they must be smaller, most cost-effective to manufacture, easier to use and more accessible,” said Cabrera.
The rapid bio-prototyping model was designed by Solorzano while he was still a bioengineering student at Penn. After meeting Cabrera, who was studying biology and computer science, the two decided to found BioBots and see if they could bring this revolutionary product to market. According to the engineers, the bioprinting process involves “recreating the 3D structure of a tissue using a fabrication technique where a computer program slices up a construct into discrete layers” and then rebuilds them using biomaterial extruded from a printer head. These biomaterials mimic the architecture of the extracellular matrix in which cells are suspended. Biobot uses Blue Light Technology to cure the biomaterials rapidly without damaging cells. While the technology is not yet capable of producing implantable 3D tissues that could actually be used in human organ transplants, they could be used to create organ models for testing compounds and drugs instead of testing on live animals.
In terms of the bioprinter itself, they are put together in the company’s offices in Philadelphia. Each machine takes roughly four hours to assemble, with all plastic parts made on 3D printers.
Within the biomedical industry, their invention is already sparking interest, with 18 units sold to various academic researchers. These researchers are using the Biobot to experiment with printing bone, building hearts and even developing mini-stomachs. “As a community of scientists, we’ve already succeeded in bringing together multidisciplinary teams of basic scientists, physicians, and engineers to take on the biggest challenges to human health such as cancer, AIDS, and now organ regeneration,” said the company founders. “What we lack though, are ways of recreating the three-dimensional environment of cells, tissues, and organs within the body. Here at BioBots, we hope to address that problem and fundamentally change the way science is done. “
In order to fund the research, the Cabrera and Solorzano joined the DreamIT Health Incubator, which invested $50,000 in the project in exchange for 8% equity. They have also received funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Wharton, and the University of Pennsylvania, for a total of $150,000 in investments. The next step, which is already in the works, is to create the BioBot 2.0, which the company intends to mass-produce and sell to the wider public. They are planning on doing a $2.5 million seed round with $200,000 committed.
To bring the next iteration to life, BioBot is headed to this month’s 7th annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, where they were chosen as one of 48 startups out of more than 500 applicants to pitch in the Digital Health and Life Sciences Technologies category. Not only will this help them spread the word about their revolutionary invention, but if they win, they could receive the funding required to really get their project off the ground and into the hands of scientists, engineers and biologists everywhere.
Posted in 3D Printers
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olgom wrote at 3/10/2015 10:02:43 AM:
Vertically printed hole is one thing that should be in test.
CWilson wrote at 3/9/2015 9:25:32 AM:
I have been following biobots. The $5k price tag was quickly by with $25k. Still a bargain in the bioprinter world.
johnohara wrote at 3/8/2015 8:54:25 PM:
"Millenials, also known as Generation Y, or those born between the 1980s-2000s, are generally seen as a lazy and entitled, too busy checking their Facebook statuses to engage in the world around them." C'mon Kira, you can write a better lead than that. There's some very cool technical projects going on at UPenn.