BioMed Mondays 02

BioBots: Disrupting 3D Printing and Research

Today, biofabrication tools are similar to what computers were back in 60’s.  Biofabrication tools take up a great amount of space and are extremely expensive ($350k+)  However this will not last for long.  In August of 2014, a company by the name of BioBots, a company that manufactures 3D bioprinters and bioinks, was founded.  Founded by the CEO Danny Cabrera, CTO Ricky Solorzano, and Sohaib Hashmi, the company aims to do to biology what the PC did to the computing industry.  Their mission “is to empower people to build with life” - Danny Cabrera.  

The current model that is being sold by them is called the BioBot 1.  This is a revolutionary 3D printer because it does not kill all living cells like the other printers do, is compact in size and cost $10,000 USD.  The printer used a proprietary process invented by the company where visible blue light and a collagen based polymer is used to build tissues.  Better yet, the 3D printer has a height, length, and width of 12 inches all for a comparatively affordable price (10,000 USD).  From universities to the average middle class person, just about anyone can buy this printer.

The BioBot 1 has or is capable of revolutionizing many industries.  One such industry is research and development.  Research laboratories are in institutions such as Drexel University, Columbia University, and the University of California at San Diego are using the bioprinter to create simple organs such as skin, tracheas, and bladders.  Aside from the simple organs, researchers have also used the printer to create vocal cords, heart valves, and blood vessels.  The printer also creates a controlled environment for researchers to conduct various experiments.  For example, pressure can be controlled using the BioBot 1.  However the biggest way research is being changed by the printer is with animal testing.  The printer has the capability to replace animal testing with miniature 3D organs.  

The company hopes to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry.  As every American knows, a vast number of pharmaceutical companies offers very expensive drugs for the average consumer.  Pharmaceutical companies say this is due to expensive drug testing.  Before biological tissues were hand created in laboratories.  Biological tissues are likely to be created in laboratories in the near future.  However expensive drug testing will no longer be an excuse, because the BioBot 1 automates the printing of biological tissues, thereby lowering the cost of drug testing.  In fact some pharmaceutical companies are already using the BioBot 1 to create a large quantity of brain tumors for clinical trials.

Besides revolutionizing multi-billion dollar industries, this 3D printer has the capacity to benefit and harm the various aspects of life in the future.  Middle class people benefit because they will have the capacity to start their own ventures like creating a clinic where people who need customized 3D organs can get them.  New industries are likely to be created that people did not think was possible, just as the Macintosh created the desktop publishing industry due to the combination of the Macintosh with a Mac-specific software and Apple’s LaserWriter printer.  

The biggest concern may come from the loss of jobs.  The BioBot 1 is very user friendly.  A person does not need a degree in a certain field to operate the machine like what is required with current biofabrication machines.  Various engineers and technicians that operate this machine will lose their jobs to automation of the BioBot 1 and future 3D bioprinters.  However there is nothing to be worried about.  People should not fall into the lump of labor fallacy.  Their never is a fixed amount of work to do in any economy and in the past technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed.  What is repetitive and routine will become automated very easily with 3D printers.  Always remember that the further you look into the past, the further you can predict the future.          

Author: Hamza Waheed