3D bio printed human skin is going to replace animal experiments. This is one of the markets for a Swedish 3D-printer startup that uses ink with living cells. In March the company Cellink stepped in to this year’s 33 list, a list consisting of Sweden’s youngest and hottest technology companies that have chance to become a global giant.
It’s the middle of the night, but on the fifth floor of Biotech-house Arvid Wallgren Hill in Gothenburg, there is full activity. The entrepreneur Erik Gatenholm and cell biologist Hector Martinez are concentrated and are assembling 3D printers for living cells. Most printers have been ordered by customers in the US, Sweden and Japan.
- We are actually a bio-ink company but thought the market needed a cheaper and gentler 3D-bioprinter on the market, says Erik Gatenholm, president of the young technology company Cellink.
Along with Hector Martinez, he gave himself a year ago the task to solve the problems that researchers at Chalmers University experienced when they tried to create organs and tissues through 3D printing. The bio 3D printer that the researchers bought turned out to be hammering down the cells.
The result was a 3D bio-printer where cells are printed by the print head, much like a syringe and an ink with nano cellulose that causes cells to thrive. With the technology around 95 percent of the cells survived a print.
- In addition, our printer weighs just 20 kg and costs SEK 50 000 (6200 USD). This compares with 200 kg and 2 million SEK (250 000 USD) for other 3D bio-printers available on the market.
The downside is that the precision of printing does not end up in exactly the same top-notch.
- The question is whether an extreme high precision is what is needed today when the point actually is researching? says Erik Gatenholm.
Judging from the orders that fall in, the buyers agree. Over the past 45 days the company has sold more than 30 printer - along with an ink in which the skin and cartilage cells thrives. With nano-cellulose the ink gets mechanical characteristics where other bio ink do not have: it does not flow out and you can print cells and support structures in one. The support structure is a must when tissue or organs are created.
Its customers include more than 20 universities around the world as well as more than ten industry. These include cosmetics companies that want to use the printer and ink with skin cells to print the human skin. The skin is going to be used to replace animal experiments - cosmetics tested on animals cannot be sold in the EU. The buyers are companies in the US and Japan, but Erik Gatenholm will not reveal any names.
The long term goal for the printer is to use it to print perfect human parts. But right now the challenge is to scale up production. Production takes place in the company’s premises in Gothenburg.
- We get lots of orders and looking for a company in Gothenburg who can take care of the production, says Erik Gatenholm.
When Ny Teknik (New Technology News Mag) and Affarsvarlden (Business Mag) attended the 33 list last week in Gothenburg in the regional-final Cellink won a spot on the 2016 list.
Make: 3d bio printer and associated ink.
Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Founded: in 2016.
Current: With 33 list in 2016.
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