3D bioprinting provides scientists with the unique ability to create artificial tissue that closely resembles native tissue in form and function. A method of tissue engineering, 3D bioprinting is the precise deposition of cells, typically layer-by-layer, to realize a final 3D construct. Over the years, 3D bioprinting has seen increased adoption as a research tool and as a method for tissue engineering in regenerative medicine.
While the concept of 3D bioprinting may sound simple, the reality is anything but. There are astounding complexities to resolve in recreating life from scratch. For more information on the technical aspects of 3D bioprinting, please refer to IDTechEx reports "3D Bioprinting 2018 - 2028: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts" and "Tissue Engineering 2018-2028: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts". This article highlights some of the latest commercial developments from 2020 that demonstrate how the technology has been rising in prominence.
Allevi, considered to be one of the first companies to bring affordable 3D bioprinters to market, signed a collaboration deal earlier this year to work with Lonza on plug-and-play bioprinting solutions. Allevi will bring their expertise in 3D bioprinters and bioink, while Lonza provides their cell culture capabilities. 3D bioprinting companies have always focused on building up networks of researchers who share protocols, while also providing kits such as bioinks, and this plug-and-play model will be another step that brings 3D bioprinting closer to achieving the status of a standard research tool.
Pharmaceutical companies around the world have been testing 3D bioprinted tissues as a tool in accelerating their drug discovery and drug development processes for several years, leading to successful funding for the many start-ups in this field. Earlier this year, Aspect Biosystems, developers of the "lab-on-a-printer" microfluidic platform raised $20 million in a Series A round. While the company has internally focused on developing regenerative medicine, they have a significant number of collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and research institutions in accelerating drug discovery and development.
Cellink, the most prominent rising star of the 3D bioprinting industry, has announced in May 2020 that they are collaborating with AstraZeneca on liver organoids for drug discovery in cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic diseases. Though liver models were something that previous market leader Organovo had focused on, Organovo itself has recently itself ceased operations. Regardless, the promise of 3D bioprinted organs in accelerating drug discovery and development is still very valuable to pharmaceutical companies around the world. Models of organs such as the liver, kidney and heart will be key to toxicity testing.
A company that is demonstrating this point most clearly in the COVID-19 pandemic is Prellis Biologics. A relative newcomer to the field of 3D bioprinting, Prellis utilizes a distinct approach - the company prints using holographic light. Prellis announced in May 2020 that they had utilized their 3D bioprinting and immunology expertise to create 960 synthetic human lymph nodes that generated 300 IgG antibodies that bind to the S1 or S2 spike proteins of the SARS-CoV2. This type of technology that can accelerate antibody development will be a very useful tool to have as the world experiences increasing outbreaks of novel diseases.
IDTechEx has been following the 3D bioprinting market since 2014 and has forecast the market to reach $1.9 billion in 2028. This market is currently still being driven by demand for 3D bioprinters, bioinks, and bioprinted tissues for research purposes, but long-term growth will hinge on the ability to create transplantable organs. While researchers around the world have created and even transplanted 3D bioprinted tissues, mass adoption has not yet occurred.
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