AMS Spring 2023

Cellink and Nanoscribe Unveil New Submicron Bioprinter


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Building on its strategy of democratizing bioprinting for researchers worldwide, biotech company Cellink teamed up with Nanoscribe, a supplier of high-precision microfabrication systems, to deliver a new submicron bioprinter. Both companies are subsidiaries of the broad bioconvergence group BICO and have joined forces to launch Quantum X bio, a Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP) powered platform for miniaturizing bioprinting.

Described as “revolutionary,” Quantum X bio is expected to redefine advanced biomedical applications, like tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Building off Nanoscribe’s Quantum X, the world’s first Two-Photon Grayscale Lithography system introduced in 2019 for the microfabrication of prototypes and masters in industrial production processes, the new Quantum X bio enables print resolution down to 100 nanometers on areas up to 25 squared centimeters. This proprietary technology will allow researchers to fabricate advanced microenvironments for tissue engineering, custom scaffolds for cell studies, vascularized tissues, detailed microfluidic elements, and microneedle arrays or microrobots for drug delivery, and the emerging field of mechanobiology.

A vascular model made with Nanoscribe's Quatnum X bio

A vascular model made with Nanoscribe’s Quatnum X bio. Image courtesy of Cellink/Nanoscribe/BICO.

Cellink described a few of the new applications possible with Quantum X bio, such as 3D cell culture, through which researchers will be capable of cultivating cells in 3D printed microwell arrays by using biocompatible materials. Additionally, by 3D bioprinting complex microfluidic structures, users can fabricate vasculature models (which are an essential milestone towards organ printing in the future) or even 3D printed drug delivery applications like the hollow and sharp tips needed for making microneedles.

Customized and reimagined through the eyes of a biologist, it has an easy-to-learn user interface and straightforward workflow, according to its creators. By incorporating features like precise temperature control, a sterile environment, functionalized biomaterials, and a cell-friendly laser wavelength, the engineers made a bioprinter that could tackle several of the common challenges associated with bioprinting—for example, printing with living cells in the resin, which is considered a significant difficulty because the cells are typically under stress while being processed and residing inside the printer.

Commenting on the achievement, Nanoscribe co-founder and CEO Martin Hermatschweiler said the launch of Quantum X bio confirms the power of collaboration within the BICO family, unlocking “the full potential at the merger of technical and life science disciplines.”

Cell culturing with Nanoscribe's Quatnum X bio.

Cell culturing with Nanoscribe’s Quatnum X bio. Image courtesy of Cellink/Nanoscribe/BICO.

The design freedom of Nanoscribe’s 3D printing technology is an important asset that will accelerate design iteration cycles. Moreover, thanks to its easy-to-learn user interface and straightforward workflow, users can get speedier successful printing results. With Quantum X bio, customers can choose from a wide range of biomaterials, bioresins, and biocompatible materials to suit their application, but the open platform also allows the use of custom materials.

Combined with sterile consumables provided by BICO Group members, like MatTek and Advanced BioMatrix, everything is available that research labs, life science, and pharmaceutical companies need to move forward research on tissues engineering, cell cultivation, and biomedical applications.

Live cell printing with Nanoscribe's Quatnum X bio.

Live cell printing with Nanoscribe’s Quantum X bio. Image courtesy of Cellink/Nanoscribe/BICO.

With Quantum X bio, Cellink boasts five bioprinters in its portfolio, while this is the first bioprinter for Nanoscribe. A spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, Nanoscribe has been focused on creating high-precision technology since 2007. It’s hardware and materials have opened up the way to produce intricate, filigree microenvironments needed in 3D cell culture and tissue engineering, basically, additive manufacturing of high-precision biomedical components, such as its IP-Visio material for cell-friendly 3D scaffolds or its biomaterial photoresins for microstructures.

Nanoscribe’s revolutionary technologies became part of the Cellink portfolio in 2021 for €50 million, or roughly $56 million, before the group changed its name to BICO. The fit was perfect according to BICO co-founder and CEO Eric Gatenholm, who pointed out that the life science industry is currently going through a “very exciting transformation where many processes and technologies are being miniaturized to increase throughput and to reduce costs, where the price of reagents is a major bottle neck for sequencing.”

Microneedles made with Nanoscribe's Quatnum X bio.

Microneedles made with Nanoscribe’s Quatnum X bio. Image courtesy of Cellink/Nanoscribe/BICO.

In fact, Nanoscribe’s technology could be the engineering transformation BICO needs to remain competitive when it comes to miniaturized devices for a wide range of applications, including those in bioprinting. Focusing on product development and innovation, BICO is in a race to address as many health challenges as possible and contribute to the future of healthcare. Although the company has a solid organic growth (roughly 69% for the first three quarters of 2021) driven by strong demand for bioprinters and liquid handling robots, its 12 acquisitions are consistently beginning to address new product development and innovations that provide researchers with hardware, software and materials they need for a growing range of life sciences applications.

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