Nov 29, 2016 Stella Kallionpää
BioBots stems from an innovation competition at University of Pennsylvania. Founders participated in the competition with the idea of 3D printers. A few months later, the fun research project had turned into promising business, as the company had raised some capital and sold prototypes to researchers.
At the beginning, the funding did not exactly go through the roof, and the founders presented the somewhat classic snapshot of entrepreneurship: “There were few months where my diet was mostly beer and bread, since we couldn’t afford much more”, Cabrera laughs.
Presenting Biobot1, a 3D bioprinter building living tissues out of human cells
BioBots developed a process that uses visible light to turn biocompatible materials from liquid to solid without killing all of the cells. In concrete, the monstrous backlog of words means that BioBots prints living tissue.
The company’s first product is BioBot1, a desktop 3D bioprinter. It looks like a traditional 3D printer with extruders moving on three axes. However, instead of printing with plastic, the BioBot1 prints with different biocompatible materials and cells.
The BioBot1’s purpose of use lies in biological research and medicine. “Our customers are scientists, institutions and companies trying to build living tissues mimicking the human body. These tissues can be used for testing new drugs and eventually implantation.”
Cabrera’s vision is to build the full stack of tools for 3D biology. “Bioprinting is just the beginning. It is really exciting to think about how we can use computational tools and robotics to design and engineer living things that can help us live more fulfilling lives.”
The future of pact between biology and computer science
When it comes to mixing biology and computer science, it is easy to come up with world-shaking scenarios. The HBO drama series Westworld has fed our imagination with synthetic androids disturbingly close to humans, and printing living tissue sounds also quite like a science fiction.
“Biology is the most sophisticated technology that we know of. We are just beginning to use computers to gain some insight and control over that complexity. I think eventually we are able to build anything”, Cabrera says.
“Bioprinters will have a role for example in replacing organ donor waiting lists, although we are still decades away from fabricating fully functional organs. Westworld brings up an interesting question – will our carbon-based intelligence lead us to a new era of silicon-based intelligence? I think the two are ultimately synergistic, but it is possible that we are competing for survival.”
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