CELLINK, the Swedish startup that created one of the first universal bioinks and manufacturers cost effective bioprinters, is working on a EU co-funded project called TumorPrint. The project aims to develop and commercialize a Specific Bioprinting platform, including bioinks, software and hardware, specialized for printing of human cancer tumors.
The total project budget has been set at €3.5 million. CELLINK will fund €1.0 million and the European Commission will contribute with €2.5 million.
“We are incredibly grateful for EU funding that contributes to the continued development of new technologies in Europe and we look forward to create value for our current and future customers in the pharmaceutical industry, but most importantly, creating patient benefit worldwide,” said CELLINK’s CEO Erik Gatenholm.
Several studies have been conducted already in the feasibility of bioprinting to reproduce cancer cells and tumor environments. Among these, Belgian researchers have evaluated the use of 3D bioprinting to create in vitro cancers cells that can properly represent the in vivo cell biology. A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad have published a study on the advances of 3D bioprinting in this field over the last five years.The two papers both highlight the ability of 3D printing to reproduce cell microenvironments. This is particularly important in relation to cancer cells.
The advantage of 3D bioprinting
3D bioprinting enables scientists to produce cell structures that are three-dimensional, however there are a number of drawbacks such as the inability to produce spherical shapes. This is something NASA is combating by growing bioprinted cancer cells in space and eliminating the effects of gravity.
The Belgian researchers from KU Leuven explain the creation of 3D cell structures can be inaccessible due to high cost and relatively low availability. Once the accessibility issue is overcome, the team state the technology has limitations in its reproducibility – this can be a general problem in 3D printing. The paper, published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, explains, “In addition, different 3D cell culture techniques often produce spheroids of different size and shape, which can strongly influence drug efficacy and toxicity.”
Hopefully in the future, bioprinting will advance and eliminate the problems of reproducibility as this is an often cited issue with 3D printing technology on the whole. and it is expected to be addressed as the technology matures, particularly into industrial use.
The TumorPrint project will span over 29 months and is coordinated and ran solely by CELLINK. The goal with the project is to offer a high throughput screening platform for pharmaceutical companies enabling them to study cell reaction within cancer tumors when exposed to different compounds.
CELLINK has retrieved a LOI from a global pharmaceutical company that will aid with the validation of the platform. If the project is successful, it is exected to further support the company’s growth by generating income through sales of Bioinks, software and systems.