A Gaithersburg company agreed to collaborate with a startup company to develop 3D bioprinted tissues that will enable drug companies to develop and test new drugs.
Medimmune, the biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, agreed to partner with Cellink, a 3D bioprinting company, starting in January. The collaboration is for one year.
“I’m hoping this is the start of a new treatment,” said Erik Gatenholm, CEO of Cellink.
Two scientists from Cellink, which has offices in Blacksburg, Virginia.; Boston, Massachusetts and Sweden, will operate out of Medimmune’s Gaithersburg office. They bring with them Cellink’s 3D bioprinting technology.
Cellink can print tissues such as liver, cartilage, skin and fully-functional cancer tumors, enabling scientists to develop new cancer treatments.
The goal is to speed up research and development of new therapies that are specific to individual patients who suffer with oncologic, respiratory, cardiovascular, renal and metabolic diseases.
“This collaboration would further open the pharmaceutical development segment for Cellink and lay the groundwork for future drug-development processes,” said Gatenholm.
“It is an honor and a tremendous opportunity for us to work side-by-side with Medimmune,” he said.
Dr. Herren Wu, chief technology officer and global head of antibody discover and protein engineering at Medimmune, also was excited.
“We’re looking forward to utilizing not only Cellink’s innovative technology, but also their direct expertise in our labs. From biotech to hi-tech, collaboration is core to how we operate and to opening new doors for the potential discovery of new therapies,” Wu said.
Cellink has a patent pending on its biolink, which enables human cells to grow and thrive as they would inside a person’s body. Bioink is made to be squeezed out through a printing nozzle or needle.
The goal, Wu said, is to enable the scientists to “expedite and advance the early drug discovery and development process.”
At first, the newly grown cells will be used only to test drugs, Gatenholm said. Using these cells would eliminate the need for animal testing.
“It’s a great technology, and it’s going to happen in Gaithersburg,” he said.
Someday, he said, 3D printing could be perfected to implant pieces of bone or a new kidney into a patient, he said.
“We are not there yet,” he noted. ‘It’s going to take time. We are talking 10, fifteen years. The science and the technology is definitely moving in the right direction.”
Cellink was founded in 2016 and currently has 75 employees who operate in 40 countries.
Medimmune has many ongoing research projects; most are connected with oncologic, respiratory, inflammatory, autoimmune, cardiovascular and metabolic disease.