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Aspect Biosystems to Deliver Two Bioprinters to Researchers via New Grant Program

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Pioneering microfluidic bioprinting company Aspect Biosystems launched a new grant program for research labs, enhancing the use of 3D bioprinting technology. The Vancouver-based biotechnology firm will choose two winners that will receive an RX1 bioprinter at no cost for six months.

“At Aspect Biosystems, we believe that getting our microfluidic 3D bioprinting technology into the hands of researchers will lead to innovative solutions in medical research and therapeutic development,” said Tamer Mohamed, CEO of Aspect Biosystems to “The RX1 Bioprinter Grant Program was designed to ignite ideas about the possibilities of bioprinting and drive its adoption as a valuable research platform.”

Tamer Mohamed, CEO of Aspect Biosystems. (Image courtesy of Aspect Biosystems)

The grant program will also provide the winners with virtual instructions and training, ongoing support from the Aspect Biosystems team, and a starter kit that includes three printheads, biomaterials, crosslinkers, and buffer. The company will accept applications through October 16, 2020, and to qualify, labs must be conducting research at a university or non-profit research institute for the duration of the project and excludes all research proposals that involve clinical trial uses or any other use in humans.

In order to be considered for the award, applicants have to describe their current research focus; a six-month project plan, including milestones; a summary of the resources available to support the project (such as consumable purchases and researchers involved), and a description of how bioprinting will be incorporated into their long-term research aims.

The Program Selection Committee will be looking at three factors to choose the winners. Mainly, whether the research project has scientific merit both in the research objectives and experimental design; the novelty of the research plan or “cool factor”, and the feasibility to achieve the research objectives.

Aspect Biosystems’ RX1 bioprinter. (Image courtesy of Aspect Biosystems)

Winners will be notified on November 16, 2020, and for six months they will be able to use the RX1 bioprinter, a system that relies on microfluidics to allow for seamless cell and material patterning. Engineered to be compatible with a wide range of biomaterials, the bioprinter can help scientists create complex, functional tissue for research purposes.

Since the product’s release in 2019, Aspect Biosystems has been working to strategically partner up with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, in addition to academic researchers like the ones at Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine (MERLN) at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, in order to develop commercially and physiologically relevant tissues. The company then uses these tissues to help speed up the discovery and development of new therapies and drugs.

Aspect Biosystems bioprinter. (Image courtesy of Aspect Biosystems)

Private funding for scientific research will likely become more important as research capacity continues to grow and critical development challenges demand funding to purchase machines, systems, and more. Research drives innovation worldwide, translating valuable knowledge and developments to an increasingly changing society. For example, according to experts in the US, government funding for academic research remains limited, and competition for grants is very high. Especially as funding rates have been dragging pretty low for several years. In 2019, the US continued to fall further behind world leaders in funding for university research. To reverse this course, experts believe that if the government doesn’t increase support by billions of dollars per year and provide stronger incentives for businesses to increase their investments, research will continue to slide.

Canada, for example, witnessed several years of scientific research slowing down, with federal science funding cuts, resulting in shuttering labs, slow innovation, and researchers having to give away their equipment. However, a reversal in Canada’s 2019 budget may have provided a momentary boost to basic science and research, but not enough for science projects to thrive. Clearly, research labs worldwide need help from privately held companies, and programs like Aspect Biosystems’ new grant, that could aid in reversing these trends.

As a spinoff out of the University of British Columbia (UBC), Aspect Biosystems made waves when they announced in 2013 that the company was ready to use live human cells to create and build living human tissue. The founders, a group of university researchers, went on to create their own 3D bioprinting technology in which cells are combined and suspended in a liquid form hydrogel to create functional living human tissue models.

Initially launching with 10 employees, the company now has over 50 and has raised more than $25.5 million in funding. Aspect Biosystems is building an interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and business professionals from all over the world, to advance tissue programs both internally and through its commercial partners, and they want research labs to experience their revolutionary technologies for strategic applications in the life sciences.

Research labs interested in filling out an application for the RX1 bioprinter grant program should do so here.

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