[Image: RTE News]

As evidenced by all of the major innovations in the field, it’s clear that 3D bioprinting is the future of medicine. One ultimate goal is to replicate patient-specific organs, but other aspects of 3D bioprinting are equally as important.

In 2016, researchers with materials science institute AMBER, funded by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and headquartered at Trinity College Dublin, developed a method for making new bones, which could one day end the need for bone grafts and donors.

This week, AMBER announced a new strategic collaboration with 3D printing advocate and multinational healthcare company Johnson & Johnson, in order to set up a 3D bioprinting laboratory and, on a grander scale, a global 3D bioprinting collaborative that aims to use the technology to transform healthcare delivery for consumers and patients.

“Transforming healthcare delivery for patients and consumers through 3D printing technology requires collaboration with experts from around the world. Our work with AMBER will advance opportunities to design and deliver a broad range of personalised, bioprinted healthcare solutions for the patients and consumers we serve every day,” said Wim Appelo, Vice President Supply Chain, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies.

Together, AMBER and the Johnson & Johnson 3D Printing Center of Excellence will set up the research laboratory at Trinity College Dublin, where the focus will be on 3D bioprinting. There will also be an established work space for Trinity researchers and J&J scientists to work on collaborative research at the Global Centre of Excellence for 3D bioprinting laboratory.

“This lab is the result of a shared vision to create a global centre of excellence for 3D bioprinting within the Centre. This has been made possible because of the calibre of our world leading academics, state of the art equipment and supporting facilities and infrastructure,” said Professor Michael Morris, the Director of AMBER. “Building on our long-standing collaboration with DePuy Synthes in Ireland, I am confident that this engagement will become the prototypical strategic partnership for AMBER as the Centre moves into the next funding cycle. Our intent is to identify and grow similar engagements of equivalent scale and type across the ICT and manufacturing sectors.”

Dr. Daniel Kelly

Dr. Daniel Kelly, a professor at AMBER, and Joseph Ault, Senior Fellow, Lead API and Bioprinting at J&J, will co-lead the laboratory, which will be built inside the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI) building. The 100-square-meter space will have room for a lab area, which will be used to work with cell and tissue cultures and bioprinting, as well as meeting and office space for 12 people.

The collaborative laboratory will also be available for undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as other Principal Investigators, to use for additional project work not directly involved with this partnership, which will obviously be of great benefit to students by exposing them to industry, and showing them how to source industry-defined projects. J&J scientists will also be available to help teach and train students and staff as needed.

“Because of the fantastic success of the SFI Research Centre, AMBER, Ireland has a worldwide reputation for excellence in 3D bioprinting and is a global leader in materials science,” said the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD. “I am delighted to welcome this new collaboration and look forward to its success moving forward.”

AMBER will initially use the new laboratory to work on orthopaedics research projects, though its long-term goals include offering its internal scientific experts as adjunct professors in the space. The collaboration between AMBER and J&J aligns well with AMBER’s goal of becoming a world bioengineering leader, as well as Trinity’s vision of setting up a new Engineering, Energy and Environment (E3) Institute and technology campus as a research and innovation incubation site at Dublin’s Grand Canal.

Dr Gráinne Cunniffe [Image: AMBER]

Work on the new collaborative 3D bioprinting laboratory will begin in Q1 of 2018, and it’s expected to be up and running by the end of the year. AMBER postdoctoral researcher Dr Gráinne Cunniffe, a Trinity graduate, has been employed as the lab’s project manager by J&J.

AMBER is fully supporting the project by offering contract and funding diversification support, project management, and recruitment.

“Science Foundation Ireland invests in world-class scientific research with deep and significant enterprise engagement, excellence and impact. I very much welcome this promising collaboration between AMBER and Johnson & Johnson Services, which builds on Ireland’s international reputation for research excellence and presents us with an important opportunity to promote the sharing of knowledge and expertise between industry and academia – in material sciences and beyond,” said Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland.

The investment isn’t just focused on the new laboratory – it will also help several individual research projects get off the ground, and enable long-term scale-up, including staff exchange and adjunct professorships between the two companies.

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