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Nanobiotechnology March 2019 Viewpoints

Technology Analyst: Ivona Bradley

Bioprinting Nanoparticle-Based Biomaterials

Why is this topic significant?

Ongoing partnerships between bioprinting companies and research institutes are likely to help enable new bioprinting processes and provide clinical-trial opportunities for proof-of-concept bioprinting nanobiotechnologies.

Description

Aether, the University College London, and Loughborough University announced their partnership to develop novel nanoparticle-containing bioinks. Using the novel bioinks, the scientists can bioprint biomaterials for a wide range of pharmaceutical and medical applications—including nanosurgical tools, drug-delivery systems, and scaffolds for tissue engineering. The nanoparticles within the bioinks are laser activated to enable the resulting printed structures to perform specific activities, such as release drug cargos and degrade in controlled conditions. The researchers plan to use Aether's 3D printer that the company customized with a laser system "set at an application specific wavelength" that scientists can easily control through a user interface. During the project, Aether also plans to investigate the use of artificial-intelligence tools to improve the fabrication process, agent activation, and material deterioration.

Implications

The partners are directing their expertise in bioprinting toward developing more cost-effective bioprinting processes and bioinks. Already, Aether plans to offer the bioprinting nanobiotechnology at just 2% of competitor costs. Manufacturing innovation is key to reducing the cost of novel nanobiotechnologies as well as translating the high efficiencies of laboratory processes into commercial modules. The bioprinting field offers considerable potential to advance applications through the technology's reproducible droplet size, positional accuracy in deposition, and software-aided printer drivers. Automated bioprinting systems may be ideal for hospital environments and medical situations that cannot support slow and bulky bioprinting equipment. In addition, nanobiotechnology offers considerable opportunity to improve the ability to control and manipulate materials with positional accuracy in the deposition and assembly of a broad range of biologically relevant materials with a specific organizational structure.

The novel bioprinting nanobiotechnology may have applications in the photothermal destruction of cancer cells, cancer detection, gene therapy, and nerve regeneration. Beyond having medical uses, the new nanobiotechnology could also find use in nanoelectronics for quantum computing.

Impacts/Disruptions

Bioprinting and nanobiotechnology could change the economic model for companies to create and manufacture custom products. Bioprinting could make the manufacturing of nanoscale biological elements easier and lower in cost than current techniques. Time to market of printed products is swifter than traditional production methods would allow—an important trait in industries such as pharmaceuticals and health care, in which products already take many years to reach patients. Furthermore, home 3D printing could result in the growth of biohacking, which has the potential to help rapidly evolve life-sciences technologies in general.

Although developing bioprinting nanobiotechnologies will likely face regulatory hurdles, bioprinting R&D will continue to create new opportunities for companies to use bioprinting systems in medical applications. The use of bioprinted laser-activated nanoparticle-based biomaterials has the potential to disrupt current norms of biomaterials production and will have a high impact. Aether and its partners will likely be the focus of intense competition from specialized biotech companies, other research institutions, and major drug developers as the novel bioprinting nanobiotechnology develops further and is able to supply a range of biomaterials for testing pharmaceuticals and medical products.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years to 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Bioprinting, tissue engineering, drug-delivery systems, pharmaceuticals, biomaterials production

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas:

Flexible and Translucent Nanoneedles Biopatch

Why is this topic significant?

The development of flexible and translucent nanoneedles biopatches could be a boon for both medical professionals and patients. Medical professionals could gain information about the patient's health during diagnosis and treatment, and the patient is likely to receive superior care.

Description

Researchers at Purdue University and Hanyang University are developing a novel method to transfer vertically ordered silicon nanoneedles from a silicon wafer to a biopatch. The nanoneedles biopatch can invasively deliver controlled doses of pharmaceuticals directly into cells and tissues. The biopatch is flexible and translucent and can enable scientists to inject up to nine silicon nanoneedles into a single cell without causing significant damage to the cell. Patients can wear the biopatch on the skin, reducing the pain of injections and decreasing the toxicity of long-term drug delivery. The researchers plan to use the nanoneedles biopatch to monitor cellular electrical activity and treat cancerous tissue.

Implications

The research under way at Purdue University and Hanyang University has the potential to hasten the commercialization of wearable biopatches. The technology to produce silicon-nanoneedles biopatches appears to be favorable to straightforward manufacturing, including the use of silicon wafers as an initial base during fabrication.

The new nanoneedles biopatch is likely to have a range of direct implications for the health-care industry and could represent a significant step toward the delivery of personalized health care. Commercialization of the new flexible skin-biopatch nanotechnology also has the potential to ease the management of various diseases such as diabetes among the global population by providing patients with reliable medication doses, enabling self-administration and disease monitoring.

Impacts/Disruptions

Research groups that develop silicon biopatches and plan to enter the market through a small company are finding increasing difficulty in attracting investment to develop products, because product-development times are lengthy and costly, with few products seeing commercial success. (Commercially available silicon biopatches tend to be opaque and rigid, creating discomfort for the wearer.) In addition, the market itself is crowded and competitive. Actual market outcomes for the novel nanoneedles biopatch will depend on many factors, not the least being that doctors and insurers need to experience firsthand the advantages of the technology over other products available at the time. The medical-devices industry's need to reduce dependence on costly and wasteful disposable items may also influence demand for the new biopatch.

Any large-scale commercialization of wearable biopatch materials or devices that function using silicon nanoneedles could have major implications for manufacturers that use silicon, given the ubiquity of silicon technology and the trillions of dollars invested in its development to date. Such commercialization (still needing further tests, trials, and regulation) may also open up new—potentially high-volume—markets for nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes.

Scale of Impact

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
The scale of impact for this topic is: Medium

Time of Impact

  • Now
  • 5 Years
  • 10 Years
  • 15 Years
The time of impact for this topic is: 5 Years to 10 Years

Opportunities in the following industry areas:

Wearables, health care, medical diagnostics, medical research

Relevant to the following Explorer Technology Areas: