Sydney based start-up Inventia has built a new 3D bio-printer that it says removes the need for time-consuming manual labour by medical lab workers. Known as Rastrum, the pink printer emulates ink-jet technology to print human cells at a rapid rate – quickly cultivating realistic tumours for testing cancer drugs. It can also conduct multiple experiments at the same time. “One of the comments we had from a researcher was he was able to produce more cell models with Rastrum in a few weeks than he previously produced in an entire PhD,” Cameron Ferris, Inventia’s chief operating officer, said. “We hope that this will turbocharge cancer research.” Kaylene Simpson, head of the Victorian Centre for Functional Genomics (VCFG), said the machine will have a profound impact on the centre’s studies. “It’s a game changer for us in a discovery-based science we can screen through thousands of drugs,” she said.
Healthcare the next digital frontier
Investing in start-ups can be risky business, but Inventia found itself at least one big backer, according to chief executive Julio Ribeiro. “When we went to the markets to raise capital, I was surprised with the positive response,” he said. Scott Farquhar, co-founder of Australian software giant Atlassian, financially backed the start-up via his fund, Skip Capital. He said he invested in Inventia because many drug research laboratories were run like they were in “the dark ages” and needed new technology. “It’s the next big frontier if you look at many industries they’ve been digitised already, and healthcare is one of the least digitised areas,” he said. “Once we make problems into software problems, things move a lot faster and healthcare, for some reason, has resisted this.”
There are hopes that eventually the technology will develop enough to grow skin, tissues, and organs. “The great promise of 3D bio-printing as a technology is the ability to print tissues and potentially organs on demand using a patient’s own cells, so in the coming decades as this technology matures that’s the ultimate vision,” Mr Ferris said. “If you can literally print you a heart with your DNA and replace it it could save a lot of lives,” said Mr Farquhar. While that technology might be decades off, Inventia hopes to see its printer helping out in medical labs across the globe.
ABC News, 17 November 2018 ; http://www.abc.net.au/news/