Biotech firm BiologIC Technologies is pioneering a new era in the field of biotechnology with the creation of the world’s first biocomputer. The biocomputer, a novel machine built from highly integrated fluidic bioprocessing chips designed akin to computer chips, marks a significant step forward in advancing biological processing. This innovative machine is highly integrated, modular, and configurable, capable of running end-to-end advanced biological processes across many applications.
Based in Cambridge, UK, BiologIC is more than just the inventor of this groundbreaking device. The company actively collaborates with commercial partners to expedite advanced biological product design, optimization, and manufacturing.
As the creator of the lab-on-a-chip platforms, BiologIC has drastically sped up the development and production of affordable pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. These 3D printed miniaturized devices, which integrate multiple laboratory functions onto a single chip, are a product of the company’s projects backed by Innovate UK, specifically the Analysis for Innovators (A4I) program.
These lab-on-a-chip platforms enable a faster, more efficient, and cost-effective way of analyzing biological samples. Their diverse range of applications spans from drug testing to point-of-care diagnostics. With the aid of A4I, a grant funding program run by Innovate UK, BiologIC accessed the expertise and advanced equipment of the National Measurement Laboratory (NML) hosted at an international life sciences measurement and tools company called the LGC Group (formerly the Laboratory of the Government Chemist). This collaboration has significantly advanced BiologIC’s understanding of the interaction between the plastic materials used in the 3D printing of chips and biological applications.
A year ago, BiologIC partnered with Oxford Biomedica – one of the most prominent players in the rapidly evolving cell and gene therapy field – to innovate a novel biocomputer system for developing viral vectors. This agreement involves BiologIC developing new applications for their biocomputer platform to advance Oxford Biomedica’s novel manufacturing processes for viral vectors, tools commonly used in gene therapy to deliver genetic material into cells.
With the biocomputer’s capability to produce biology and data on demand, Oxford Biomedica plans to leverage the platform to innovate new processes, integrate traditionally separate workflows, and gain valuable insights from real-time data. At the time, BiologIC CEO, Richard Vellacott, highlighted the potential of the biocomputer to drive a revolution in biology, helping to address global issues such as disease in sustainable and accessible ways.
Additionally, in their quest to bring the “desktop computer of life sciences” to fruition, BiologIC identified 3D printing as a transformative solution. The company decided to invest in a Stratasys J826 Prime 3D printer, a full-color, multi-material printer from Stratasys’ local partner Tri-Tech. This printer facilitated the creation of BiologIC’s innovative “bioprocessing unit,” an intricately designed component that could not be realized via traditional manufacturing methods. The team effectively utilized the full-color, multi-material printing technology to enhance design processes, print in transparent and flexible materials, and ultimately unlock their vision of a revolution in synthetic biology.
According to BiologIC, its newfound knowledge has resulted in remarkable improvements in the biocompatibility and stability of its lab-on-a-chip devices. As a result, pharmaceutical manufacturers and Contract, Design and Manufacturing Organisations (CDMOs) can now accelerate the processes needed before developing minimum viable products, leading to a faster time-to-market and cheaper production of drugs and vaccines.
BiologIC’s biocomputer heralds a transformative period in the field of biological processing. It is similar to the revolution brought about by the advent of information processing. Colin Barker, the Chief Scientific Officer at BiologIC, described the biocomputer as essentially “a lab in a box,” reprogrammable to run different applications, from growing cells for cell therapies to manufacturing food.
The integrated, reconfigurable biocomputer combines four core blocks, says Barker: the input/output block (IOB), the advanced routing core (ARC), the bioprocessing unit (BPU), and the sensor core for multiple applications. This pioneering system, alongside software programmability and additive manufacturing methods, enables BiologIC to swiftly reconfigure the system to align with its customers’ specific applications and needs.
“We designed the hardware using inspiration from semiconductor industry, mapping out each unit operation of a lab workflow and understanding the parameters and attributes before encoding them into devices that carry out each step of the workflow. From here, we manufacture collections of these devices into functional blocks using 3D printing and these combine into one integrated programmable system,” explains Barker. “Each of the blocks cary out groups of related activities and are brought together as a single hardware architecture to run these complete biological workflows. The workflows can be reprogrammed by software to use different hardware devices in different ways. This can allow us to run different applications from the same piece of hardware.”
For instance, Barker reports that the company has already showcased capabilities such as cell growth and in vitro transcription applications within BiologIC’s system. This, coupled with the system’s software programmability, leverages the company’s digital toolchain and additive manufacturing methodologies. These aspects, which can be swiftly reconfigured, enable BiologIC to adapt its hardware to supply precisely to customer-specific applications and requirements.
With its unique intersection of life sciences, 3D printing technology, and integrated circuit design, BiologIC is set to make game-changing contributions to the future of drug development and manufacturing.
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