For the second year in a row, Aspect Biosystems announced applications are open for its RX1 Bioprinter Grant Program. Designed to support researchers who need access to advanced 3D bioprinting technology for their labs, the program will provide two microfluidic 3D bioprinters for six months to early-career principal investigators (PIs) at no cost. Current early career researchers and those starting their lab within the next 12 months in biofabrication, tissue engineering, or regenerative medicine have until March 12, 2021, to apply.
“Building off the success of our RX1 Bioprinter Grant Program in 2020, we have launched the RX1 Bioprinter Grant Program for Early Career PIs because we understand how difficult it is for early-career principal investigators to establish a lab and secure equipment funding,” said Tamer Mohamed, Founder, and CEO of Aspect Biosystems to 3DPrint.com. “We believe that it is important to support this group of researchers as they will play an integral role in the development of tissue engineering for regenerative medicine applications.”
Based out of Vancouver, Canada, the biotech company combines the power of microfluidics and 3D bioprinting to fuel medical research and the development of bioprinted therapeutics to save lives. Aspect’s network of global researchers and commercial partners uses the technology to accelerate the development and commercialization of 3D bioprinted tissues. In addition to its partners, Aspect is focused on strategically advancing its regenerative medicine programs focused on metabolic diseases and musculoskeletal injuries and disorders and partnering with key industry players to bring bioprinted therapeutics to the clinic.
The Program Selection Committee – a select group of Aspect employees – will be looking at three factors to choose the winners. Primarily, whether the research project has scientific merit in its research objectives and experimental design, followed by the research plan’s novelty or “cool factor,” and the feasibility to achieve the research objectives. The final selected applications will be awarded an RX1 bioprinter, starter kit, training, and ongoing support from the Aspect team.
Released in 2017, the RX1 bioprinter is a proprietary technology that relies on microfluidic printheads to mix materials rather than using a regular syringe with bioinks. According to the company, the technique allows microscale resolution at high speed. The on-printhead crosslinking procedure allows printing a wide range of materials with high print fidelity, including low viscosity bioinks, to mimic soft tissue microenvironments. This streamlines the entire process, avoiding the time-consuming material change that other bioprinters require.
In 2020, the winners of the first RX1 Bioprinter Grant Program were Jia-Ling Ruan from the University of Oxford’s Department of Oncology in the UK, and Wojciech Chrzanowski from the University of Sydney, in Australia. The two applicants were notified of the selection committee’s decision on November 16, 2020, and for six months, will be able to use the RX1 bioprinter, engineered to be compatible with a wide range of biomaterials to help scientists create complex, functional tissue for research purposes.
As a bioengineer, Ruan is interested in tackling human diseases using biotechnologies. A Senior Postdoctoral Researcher and Junior Research Fellow at Oxford, Ruan focuses on optimizing cancer chemoradiation therapy for muscle-invasive bladder cancer by smart drug delivery, radio-immunomodulation, and tissue engineering modeling. Her winning application aimed to use 3D bioprinting to reconstruct a tumor and normal tissue microenvironment to study and improve cancer radiotherapy.
Upon receiving the RX1 bioprinter, Ruan hoped to establish a clinically relevant tumor-normal tissue composite to study the response after radiotherapy. The 3D model will also allow her to investigate the interaction between cancer cells and normal cells after radiotherapy, important information that is otherwise difficult to acquire using traditional in vitro and in vivo models.
Chrzanowski’s work has contributed to understanding the interaction between nanomaterials and living cells and tissue-like models assembled using magnetic 3D bioprinting, with research centered around nanomedicine and nano-bio-characterization. An Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the University of Sydney’s Nano Institute, Chrzanowski’s project seeks to advance organ-microbiota models using microfluidic 3D bioprinting.
With the addition of the RX1 bioprinter, the expert wants to recreate the gut tissue microenvironment, including the microbiome (community of micro-organisms living together in a particular habitat), and develop biomaterials specific to the microbiome that exist alongside the gut. The microbiome is essential to the gut structure and how drugs are absorbed and metabolized, so models that incorporate the microbiome are crucial to studying drug-gut interactions in vivo.
The new edition of the RX1 program expects to receive dozens of applications from early-stage PIs researching at a university or non-profit research institute and excludes any applications that propose clinical trial uses. Program details, instructions, and the application form are available on Aspect’s website at the following link. The winners will be notified on March 2021 of the committee’s decision.
This is an excellent opportunity for up-and-coming labs in the field of bioengineering, which are known to have a hard time accessing the limited and declining funding pool. Despite a booming biotech sector, researchers suffer from an ongoing funding crisis, which has recently intensified due to the unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global shut down emergency left scientists scrambling to save their work. Still, as the world begins the journey back to some form of “normalcy,” we expect to see more grant programs like Aspect’s, which can help researchers continue on their path to discovery.
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