The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) is hosting along with local biotech firm, Aspect Biosystems, a May 3 -5, 2017 international research roundtable known as ‘Printing the Future of Therapeutics in 3D‘.
A May 1, 2017 UBC news release (received via email) offers some insight into the field of bioprinting from one of the roundtable organizers,
This week, global experts will gather  at the University of British
Columbia to discuss the latest trends in 3D bioprinting—a technology
used to create living tissues and organs.
In this Q&A, UBC chemical and biological engineering professor
Vikramaditya Yadav , who is also with the Regenerative Medicine
Cluster Initiative in B.C., explains how bioprinting could potentially
transform healthcare and drug development, and highlights Canadian
innovations in this field.
WHY IS 3D BIOPRINTING SIGNIFICANT?
Bioprinted tissues or organs could allow scientists to predict
beforehand how a drug will interact within the body. For every
life-saving therapeutic drug that makes its way into our medicine
cabinets, Health Canada blocks the entry of nine drugs because they are
proven unsafe or ineffective. Eliminating poor-quality drug candidates
to reduce development costs—and therefore the cost to consumers—has
never been more urgent.
In Canada alone, nearly 4,500 individuals are waiting to be matched with
organ donors. If and when bioprinters evolve to the point where they can
manufacture implantable organs, the concept of an organ transplant
waiting list would cease to exist. And bioprinted tissues and organs
from a patient’s own healthy cells could potentially reduce the risk
of transplant rejection and related challenges.
HOW IS THIS TECHNOLOGY CURRENTLY BEING USED?
Skin, cartilage and bone, and blood vessels are some of the tissue types
that have been successfully constructed using bioprinting. Two of the
most active players are the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative
Medicine in North Carolina, which reports that its bioprinters can make
enough replacement skin to cover a burn with 10 times less healthy
tissue than is usually needed, and California-based Organovo, which
makes its kidney and liver tissue commercially available to
pharmaceutical companies for drug testing.
Beyond medicine, bioprinting has already been commercialized to print
meat and artificial leather. It’s been estimated that the global
bioprinting market will hit $2 billion by 2021.
HOW IS CANADA INVOLVED IN THIS FIELD?
Canada is home to some of the most innovative research clusters and
start-up companies in the field. The UBC spin-off Aspect Biosystems 
has pioneered a bioprinting paradigm that rapidly prints on-demand
tissues. It has successfully generated tissues found in human lungs.
Many initiatives at Canadian universities are laying strong foundations
for the translation of bioprinting and tissue engineering into
mainstream medical technologies. These include the Regenerative Medicine
Cluster Initiative in B.C., which is headed by UBC, and the University
of Toronto’s Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering.
WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DOES BIOPRINTING CREATE?
There are concerns about the quality of the printed tissues. It’s
important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Health
Canada are dedicating entire divisions to regulation of biomanufactured
products and biomedical devices, and the FDA also has a special division
that focuses on regulation of additive manufacturing – another name
for 3D printing.
These regulatory bodies have an impressive track record that should
assuage concerns about the marketing of substandard tissue. But cost and
pricing are arguably much more complex issues.
Some ethicists have also raised questions about whether society is not
too far away from creating Replicants, à la _Blade Runner_. The idea is
fascinating, scary and ethically grey. In theory, if one could replace
the extracellular matrix of bones and muscles with a stronger substitute
and use cells that are viable for longer, it is not too far-fetched to
create bones or muscles that are stronger and more durable than their
WILL DOCTORS BE PRINTING REPLACEMENT BODY PARTS IN 20 YEARS’ TIME?
This is still some way off. Optimistically, patients could see the
technology in certain clinical environments within the next decade.
However, some technical challenges must be addressed in order for this
to occur, beginning with faithful replication of the correct 3D
architecture and vascularity of tissues and organs. The bioprinters
themselves need to be improved in order to increase cell viability after
These developments are happening as we speak. Regulation, though, will
be the biggest challenge for the field in the coming years.
There are some events open to the public (from the international research roundtable homepage),
You’re invited to attend the open events associated with Printing the Future of Therapeutics in 3D.
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Telus World of Science
5:30 – 8:00pm [all tickets have been claimed as of May 2, 2017 at 3:15 pm PT]
3D Bioprinting: Shaping the Future of Health
Imagine a world where drugs are developed without the use of animals, where doctors know how a patient will react to a drug before prescribing it and where patients can have a replacement organ 3D-printed using their own cells, without dealing with long donor waiting lists or organ rejection. 3D bioprinting could enable this world. Join us for lively discussion and dessert as experts in the field discuss the exciting potential of 3D bioprinting and the ethical issues raised when you can print human tissues on demand. This is also a rare opportunity to see a bioprinter live in action!
Friday, May 5, 2017
Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
2:00 – 7:00pm
A Scientific Discussion on the Promise of 3D Bioprinting
The medical industry is struggling to keep our ageing population healthy. Developing effective and safe drugs is too expensive and time-consuming to continue unchanged. We cannot meet the current demand for transplant organs, and people are dying on the donor waiting list every day. We invite you to join an open session where four of the most influential academic and industry professionals in the field discuss how 3D bioprinting is being used to shape the future of health and what ethical challenges may be involved if you are able to print your own organs.
The University of British Columbia and the award-winning bioprinting company Aspect Biosystems, are proud to be co-organizing the first “Printing the Future of Therapeutics in 3D” International Research Roundtable. This event will congregate global leaders in tissue engineering research and pharmaceutical industry experts to discuss the rapidly emerging and potentially game-changing technology of 3D-printing living human tissues (bioprinting). The goals are to:
Highlight the state-of-the-art in 3D bioprinting research
Ideate on disruptive innovations that will transform bioprinting from a novel research tool to a broadly adopted systematic practice
Formulate an actionable strategy for industry engagement, clinical translation and societal impact
Present in a public forum, key messages to educate and stimulate discussion on the promises of bioprinting technology
The Roundtable will bring together a unique collection of industry experts and academic leaders to define a guiding vision to efficiently deploy bioprinting technology for the discovery and development of new therapeutics. As the novel technology of 3D bioprinting is more broadly adopted, we envision this Roundtable will become a key annual meeting to help guide the development of the technology both in Canada and globally.
We thank you for your involvement in this ground-breaking event and look forward to you all joining us in Vancouver for this unique research roundtable.
The Organizing Committee
Christian Naus, Professor, Cellular & Physiological Sciences, UBC
Vikram Yadav, Assistant Professor, Chemical & Biological Engineering, UBC
Tamer Mohamed, CEO, Aspect Biosystems
Sam Wadsworth, CSO, Aspect Biosystems
Natalie Korenic, Business Coordinator, Aspect Biosystems
I’m glad to see this event is taking place—and with public events too! (Wish I’d seen the Café Scientifique announcement earlier when I first checked for tickets yesterday. I was hoping there’d been some cancellations today.) Finally, for the interested, you can find Aspect Biosystems here.