Nine 3D Bioprinting Companies Making Progress
When trying to get your arms around who is doing what for any given technology, things change quickly. In our recent piece on artificial intelligence for drug discovery, we noted how the number of players in this space has exploded to more than 125 startups using machine learning to improve some aspect of the drug discovery process. Remember how nanotechnology was supposed to transform drug delivery? As of December 2017, nanoparticles could be found in 50 approved drugs and 60 investigation drugs. It’s already mainstream, but some question the economic viability of nanomedicine. Here’s an excerpt from a paper that explores this topic.
Waning enthusiasm among health care professionals is another challenge faced by nanodrug developers.2This decrease is often attributed to the fact that most nanodrugs achieve improved safety rather than increased efficacy.2Views have also been expressed in the medical literature that the number of nanodrugs that have been approved is disproportionately small in comparison to the large investment made in this field.4,66
While the jury may still be out on how transformational nanotechnology will prove to be for medicine, other technologies plod along appearing to make progress. One of those is 3D bioprinting, something we recently talked about in our article on two 3D bioprinting stocks – Organovo and CELLINK – which are sporting dramatically different growth profiles. The fact that CELLINK has only been around for three years shows that we may be starting to climb up the “Slope of Enlightenment.” We recently came across a regenerative medicine market map by BioInformant that lists a whole bunch of 3D bioprinting companies that have been around for a while, four of which we last looked at more than four years ago.
Let’s take a look at each of the above 3D bioprinting companies noting that we already covered CELLINK and Organovo in a recent article on A 3D Bioprinting Stock That’s Not Organovo.
3D Bioprinting with Needles
Japanese firm Cyfuse Biomedical is one of those firms that doesn’t keep Crunchbase updated because lots of Japanese firms don’t really care about being in Crunchbase. This means we need to peruse their website to try and tell a story. Here’s some of that story so far which looks like some steady progress, at least as it pertains to raising funding.
Those three rounds come to around $30.7 million in total funding with their last round – a Series C of around $13.4 million – closing in August of last year. Their method of 3D printing doesn’t use scaffolding but instead uses needles to “skewer” these cell-spheres which then fuse together to form tissue. 3D Printing Industry does a good job describing the process in an article on how Japanese researchers used this technology to 3D print artificial tracheas and then implant them successfully in rats.
3D Bioprinting for Treating Vitiligo
Oftentimes startups will start out heading in one direction with a technology or product and then “pivot” and start heading in an entirely different direction. Many companies do this successfully, and it’s usually a light bulb moment where the company finally settles on a viable business model and product line. Last time we looked at TeVido Biosciences, they were looking into nipple reconstruction. In a blog post last month, the CEO talked about how they are pivoting to a treatment for vitiligo, a disease that results in milky-white patches of skin on different parts of the body which affects about 1% of people worldwide. Funding for the company remains undisclosed for now.
An Artificial Cell Platform
Another 3D bioprinting company raising funding last year was OxSyBio which raised around $13 million in a Series A funding round that closed in March of last year bringing their total funding to $14.3 million to date. Their artificial cell platform and 3D bioprinting technology have been applied to lots of interesting use cases that meld biology with electronics or chemistry to do things like create “a non-living retina that can see shapes in real time,” or “produce proteins on demand from a non-living system.” No news yet of what their first commercial application might entail or how far away it is but their backers are all legit so it’s not likely to be vaporware.
A 3D Bioprinting Platform
Another firm we looked at was RegenHU out of Switzerland which doesn’t appear to have taken in any funding since October of 2015 with only $619,000 raised to date. They sell their own hardware product line along with a number of bioinks and a software platform that makes it all work. Reference customers include loads of academic institutions along with some big corporate names like Loreal and Thermo Fisher.
A section of their website is dedicated to the achievements being made using their technology with the latest being the ability to “3D‐print thick, vascularized, and perfusable cardiac patches that completely match the immunological, cellular, biochemical, and anatomical properties of the patient is reported.”
Founded in 2013, Vancouver, British Columbia startup Aspect Biosystems has taken in $3.7 million in funding to develop “a disruptive 3D bioprinting platform based on its proprietary Lab-on-a-Printer™ technology, capable of creating living Human Tissues on Demand™ for broad applications in the life sciences.” That’s quite the mouthful, but what they’re doing is to combine the power of microfluidics (organ on a chip stuff) with 3D bioprinting.
They’re working with a top-10 global pharma company to develop “the world’s first 3D printed airway tissue,” and a Johnson & Johnson company to develop “bioprinted knee meniscus tissue.” A number of universities are using the technology to print things like kidney tissues, neural tissues, and smooth muscle models for uterine and airway applications.
Custom Scaffold Implants
Singapore startup Osteopore has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to develop bioresorbable polymer implants for neurosurgical, orthopedic, and maxillofacial surgeries. These are customized scaffolds that are “fabricated in-house using 3D printing technology that is precise and allows for customization of shape and geometry,” meaning that patients can get customized solutions built for their unique anatomies. Their products have been used in more than 10,000 successful implants over the past 10 years.
Zee BioScaffold Machine
Founded way back in 1995, German firm GeSIM has evolved over time to become “a bioinstrumentation company focusing on submicroliter liquid handling instruments and microfluidics.” Recently, they’ve begun focusing on “instrumentation for 3D printing of biocompatible materials.” Here’s a look at their BioScaffold hardware products, one of which – the BS4.2 – was just released this month.
Given that GeSIM sells an entire suite of related products, they already have existing sales channels which will make it easier to sell their 3D bioprinting products. They have extensive documentation available for their latest printer if you’re interested in tucking in. While their website doesn’t exactly scream “high tech company with leading-edge technologies,” at least it’s not as bad this next company’s website.
3D Bioprinting in Space
Founded in 2002, Florida company nScrypt is said to have developed “the world’s first commercially available bioprinter,” which was developed under a contract with DARPA. A few years ago, nScrypt and a NASA contractor called Techshot became the first to 3D print a heart structure in zero gravity using human stem cells. The nScrypt BioAssembly Tool (BAT) is a tabletop 3D bioprinting machine which is just one of many products on offer from the company.
Our last firm is a well-established 3D printing company that also sells a bioprinting device called the 3D-Bioplotter. Launched in 2000, the 3D-Bioplotter comes in three flavors and is the most seasoned bioprinter in the market, backed by more than 150 research papers to date. The devices have been used to fabricate hyperelastic bone, ovary implants, a placenta model and are being used in bone regeneration research.
A number of the companies on the BioInformant market map appear to be questionable as to whether or not they’re making progress. Georgia startup TRS (that stands for Tissue Regeneration Services) says they’re working to develop “scalable 3D printing methods to fabricate advanced skeletal reconstruction implants.” A quick look at the press release section of their website – which looks like it needs a refresh – shows they haven’t published any news releases since 2015. When startups go quiet like this, they’re either pivoting into stealth mode or they haven’t been making a lot of progress.
The same holds true for a company called Digilab which was said to be working on a cell printer. They’ve also been quiet lately and choosing not to update their archaic website. At least it’s not as bad as Bio3D which was a Singapore company developing a 3D bioprinter that no longer has a functioning website. Lastly, another company we chose not to dig into is Rainbow Biosciences (RBCC) which appears to be an OTC mess that we covered five years ago and which now has a market cap that’s less than $250,000.
In our article on CELLINK, we talked about how they’re expanding their product offering by pursuing selective acquisitions and partnerships. Some of the companies we’ve covered today could very well provide further opportunities for consolidation through mergers and acquisitions. While researching this article, we also came across a fair number of well-funded 3D bioprinting companies that we’ll be covering in a future article. If you have a sacred cow that you think should be on our radar, please drop a note in the comments section below or send us an email.
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