After so many years of anticipation and excitement for the possibilities it could offer, the bioprinting segment now seems to finally be coming into its own. The bioprinting market is starting to take shape, setting the foundations for future growth, while large medical and pharmaceutical firms look at this field with growing interest. While BICO carves itself a role as a leading bio-convergence firm centered around its CELLINK bioprinting platform, and Desktop Metal integrates EnvisionTEC’s bioplotter into its Desktop Health range of services, a myriad of smaller companies and university spinoffs are presenting new applications. In this context, the renewed interest that 3D Systems, one of the long-standing additive manufacturing market pioneers and leaders, has manifested may offer us one of the clearest indications that a solid bioprinting industry and the relative market opportunity is now within reach. The company has targeted lungs as a key organ bioprinting application via a partnership with United Therapeutics, collaborating with CollPlant on tissue scaffolds for breast reconstruction. It acquired Allevi to build its commercial bioprinting hardware business and named former Allevi Chief Scientific Officer Taci Pereira General Manager of Bioprinting. 3dpbm had the opportunity to speak with Ms Pereira about the past, present and future of bioprinting at 3D Systems to discover that the scenario that awaits us and the AM industry is very exciting.
3dpbm: To start, can you tell us more about your background and how you joined 3D Systems?
Taci Pereira: “I graduated with a degree in bioengineering from Harvard, where I did research at the Mooney Lab for Cell and Tissue Engineering. Being at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, one of the most renowned bioengineering centers in the world, exposed me to groundbreaking technologies in biotech and inspired me to move into the startup space. I joined Allevi in 2017, where I began as an entry-level bioengineer, and as I became more acquainted with the technology and its applications, I gradually transitioned away from the lab and into strategy. Participating in programs such as Petri and Pillar VC’s Founder Frequency also helped me prepare to make the move from a research focus to a business focus.
As of last year, I became Allevi’s Chief Scientific Officer and worked with my business partner, Maddie Winter (our Chief Operating Officer and part of Allevi’s founding team) on exiting to 3D Systems. It was an exciting move for us since 3D Systems had decades of experience in additive manufacturing that could help take our technology to the next level. In addition, Chuck Hull (3D Systems’ Co-Founder and CTO of Regenerative Medicine) and his team had been doing pioneering work in the regenerative medicine space through its partnership with United Therapeutics to make bioprinted lungs, which showed us that the company was committed to revolutionizing the entire industry – and we wanted to be part of it.”
3dpbm: How is bioprinting structured at 3D Systems now?
Taci Pereira: “We have an exceptionally talented team that is tackling several challenges in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, biomaterials research, and pharmaceutical development with cutting-edge bioprinting technologies. Though we all work together toward common goals, each bioprinting area has enormous technical, regulatory, and business requirements that deserve a full team’s attention. For this reason, we have subdivided our teams based on application – organs, non-organ human applications, and laboratory solutions.”
3dpbm: Can you explain exactly what your role and your responsibilities are?
Taci Pereira: “Dr Jeff Graves, 3D Systems’ president and CEO, gave me the honor to lead the Allevi by 3D Systems team as the General Manager of Bioprinting. In this role, I work closely with Menno Ellis, our EVP of Healthcare Solutions, to direct our bioprinting efforts to deliver high-value laboratory solutions for entry-level as well as advanced research, and pharmaceutical development. We are doing that through the commercialization of high-performing products, the development of high-value applications, and the offering of bioprinting services for those that are new to bioprinting. Also, we are hiring across the globe – please email email@example.com if you are interested in joining our team!”
3dpbm: Can you explain how Allevi, CollPlant and other 3D Systems solutions (such as Figure 4) coexist and work together?
TC: “Allevi and CollPlant have been leaders in their respective fields: extrusion bioprinting research and plant-based recombinant human collagen. Since the announcement of Allevi’s acquisition and the CollPlant partnership, 3D Systems has been leveraging all of its technological expertise, which includes Figure 4 and other platforms, to reach the goals set forth by each of these initiatives. With the Allevi offerings, our goal is to provide cutting-edge laboratory solutions for tissue engineering and biomaterials research as well as pharmaceutical development. With CollPlant, our goal is to deliver recombinant human collagen-based bioprinted solutions, beginning with a soft tissue matrix for breast reconstruction.”
3dpbm: Which commercial bioprinting products is 3D Systems offering?
TC: “In terms of bioprinting products, we have our Allevi by 3D Systems product portfolio, which comprises three extrusion-based bioprinters, several bioinks, bioink components, consumables, reagents, and our Bioprint Pro software. In addition to those, there are new products under development based on 3D Systems’ other technical platforms and materials families. Stay tuned for news on what exciting new products we are working on! You can sign up for our newsletter on our website and follow our LinkedIn page for the latest updates.”
3dpbm: Which are the primary target applications for the bioprinting industry in the near, medium, and long term?
TC: “As 3D Systems, we are targeting a range of bioprinting applications to deliver short, mid, and long-term solutions to the market. In partnership with United Therapeutics, the team started with one of the most challenging in the industry – bioprinting organs, beginning with the human lung. Through that work, we have set up a foundation for bioprinting additional human applications. We have also developed technologies through this project that are useful for existing markets, mainly the tissue engineering research market, where Allevi has played to date. In the near to mid-term, we will continue to drive the development of bioprinted disease models for drug discovery.”
3dpbm: Which do you see as the most important areas of development for bioprinting in general?
TC: “I don’t think this is said enough, but many commercially available bioprinting technologies are still premature. If you go to any bioprinting lab using any bioprinting technology, you will see that the bulk of the work they are doing is focused on the process as opposed to the output. For bioprinting to truly revolutionize medicine, we need to make it as simple, predictable, and effective as running a lab centrifuge, while continuing to push the envelope on today’s technical limitations. This is what we are focusing on as we join 3D Systems, the company that has a multi-decade track record of doing so for both industrial and healthcare applications.”