Friday, October 7 2022

In about two months, India will have its first dedicated center for 3D bioprinting technology at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

3D bioprinting is a growing field globally, with major applications in drug development, and perhaps even organ transplantation.

Bioprinters use living cells printed in multiple layers to create close approximations of human tissue and even organs. But the technology is little known or accessible as the machines cost millions of rupees and additionally require expensive consumables and highly trained personnel for operations and maintenance. Currently, isolated 3D bioprinters are only available in India at certain research institutions like IITs.

It is in this context that the IISc will set up its Center of Excellence (CoE) in 3D bioprinting within its Center for Science and Engineering of Biosystems (BSSE). The CoE aims to advance the field as a whole by becoming a resource center for researchers, biopharmaceutical companies, hospitals, etc.

Dr. Kaushik Chatterjee, associate professor at BSSE, says: “We would like to organize workshops with different stakeholders. Researchers from other universities can carry out pilot studies at the center or even collaborate on a project if they have a partner at the IISc. Biopharmaceutical companies can see how drug testing can be done on printed fabrics instead of animals.

The CoE is being implemented through IISc’s collaboration with Swedish bioprinting solutions company CELLINK, which will provide two to three bioprinters to the CoE, each using a different printing technology, at their own expense. The company will also provide ongoing technical support and help the IISc facilitate workshops. “CELLINK will provide an application scientist who can guide IISc researchers in the use of bioprinters to explore applications such as drug discovery, tissue engineering and personalized medicine,” said the CEO. Cecilia Edebo.

Drug testing is now a major research area in the field of 3D bioprinting. “Many drugs that pass animal tests don’t work in humans. In addition, costs and rules are an obstacle. Animal testing is also completely prohibited for many cosmetics. Thus, testing drugs on bioprinted tissues such as layers of skin can complement animal testing,” says Dr. Chatterjee.

But even in the West, it is only an emerging area of ​​research in universities; biopharmaceutical companies and regulators still have to catch up.

Dr. Chatterjee says, “We would like the biopharmaceutical industry to engage with us quickly. As more companies use this technology for drug testing, regulators will also update their rules for accepting test results.

When it comes to organ transplants, some startups and educational institutions in India are also looking into bio-printed organs like corneas. However, this research is still in its early stages and would require a lot of funding, testing, and regulatory frameworks. But the possibilities would be enormous in India, which sees a big gap between the need and the donation of organs. “We will work with some hospitals on this. But the results will first have to be validated in small animals and then in large ones, for example using a bioprinted bone or nerve. Then it can be used in human trials. The technology has to mature in a safe way,” says Chatterjee.

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