Bringing mad science to mass production: Financial Post features the Bio Printer project

University of Toronto PhD student Lian Len with a prototype tissue printer. Photo courtesy of Dominic Ali (University of Toronto)

University of Toronto PhD student Lian Len with a prototype tissue printer. Photo courtesy of Dominic Ali (University of Toronto)

“It’s one thing to invent a machine that prints skin, but it’s a whole other challenge to bring what seems like the domain of mad science to mass production,” Matthew Braga wrote in  “Looking for ways to get ‘skin’ in the game,” published in the Financial Post on July 15.

The article focuses on MaRS Innovation’s (MI) and the Innovations and Partnerships Office’s (University of Toronto) joint efforts to commercialize the bio printer, a “prototype 3D printer that, instead of extruding layers of plastic and other inorganic materials into physical shapes, builds layer upon layer of cell-laden tissue, a process that could lead to the cheap, rapid production of human skin.”

Braga’s article was syndicated in the Regina Leader Post, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix,  and the Vancouver Sun, among other Canadian publications.


Braga’s article included an interview with MI’s Fanny Sie, project manager for the bio printer project:

Fanny Sie, project manager at MaRS Innovation, leads the bio printer commericalization project for MI.

Fanny Sie, project manager at MaRS Innovation, leads the bio printer commercialization project.

“Right now, to create an artificial skin is about $30,000 to $40,000 with a very small surface area of coverage,” explained Fanny Sie, a project manager at MaRS Innovation, who described the tissue produced as “more of a functional Band-Aid.”

“So we focused the application on burn patients who have large surface area burns.”

. . .

But like many innovations in the scientific field, don’t go expecting to buy a device from the local Best Buy that can print skin of your own anytime soon. Ms. Sie estimates the time to market for a commercial tissue printer such as this to be between three and five years at best. She notes there is a competing tissue printer, manufactured by a company called Organovo, which can be used to print tissues for therapeutic and research purposes, but is mostly known for its more lucrative commercial applications — 3D printed leather and meat.

“We have to think of near-term revenues to meet the long-term goals of the project, so we also think of things that are faster or can get to the market quicker,” Ms. Sie explained.

The complete article is available on the Financial Post‘s website.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, marketing and communications manager.