Project Summary

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is arising as a versatile and potent group of technologies for production of biomaterials, in particular tissue engineering (TE) scaffolds by 3D printing. However, such versatility is still hampered by the limited materials that can be used to really trigger its widespread use. The development of new printable materials is, hence, a current scientific and technological challenge. The main aim of the BiogenInk project is to develop new biogenic and resorbable inks using AM, with tuneable structure and enhanced mechanical properties in order to overcome the European Research on the field of bone tissue engineering. Due to the complexity of the proposed research, the project is planned for 36 months, under the efforts of a complementary and highly-skilled consortium. The strategy designed for BiogenInk established four main objectives to accomplish the overall goal: (i) to develop suitable materials (medical grade) at low cost; (ii) the production of TE scaffolds using AM technology with improved properties for bone critical size defects; (iii) to design a protocol for a faster translate into clinical applications; and (iv) to establish a sustainable and ecological friendly raw material pipeline for scaling up the process. The rheological properties of the material formulations as well as the post printing processes will be then optimized to match the specific requirements of AM. On the other hand, the in vivo functionality of the developed scaffolds will be carried out in small animal models. A deep clinical analysis of the potential candidates for the developed technology will assure a fast clinical translation at the end of the project thus reducing the time between research outputs and clinical application. BiogenInk project is clearly oriented to the development of advanced scaffolds by printing materials from marine origin composed of collagen and ionic-doped calcium phosphates for bone tissue engineering and promote innovation in health sector, particularly on orthopedic therapies. On the other hand, a specific attention to the environment is also present in BiogenInk. We will not only establish a sustainable and eco-friendly raw materials pipeline but it is also our intention to improve the quality of the environment by obtaining the biological component from a combined bioremediation strategy. In fact, biopolymers will be isolated from marine sponges integrated in a multitrophic aquaculture system, in which as filtration organisms they serve as bioremediators from the waste materials resulting from fish aquaculture, while calcium phosphates will be extracted from salmon fish bones and later on doped with different ions. BiogenInk consortium comprises three academic partners (UMinho, UPB, and WU) and one SME (REGEMAT 3D) from different European locations. UMinho has expertise in the processing and biological characterization of natural biomaterials for biomedical applications, and in particular for bone tissue engineering applications. UPB is focused in the evaluation of the mechanical tests, thermophysical properties, immersion tests, and degradation in simulated fluids of materials. WU is addressed to the discovery and exploitation of marine bioactive molecules, namely in sponges and corals, here focusing on mariculture of sponges as sustainable production platform for biopolymers. REGEMAT 3D is a biotech company focused on using 3D printing technologies for regenerative therapies, pioneering the development of 3D printing, bioprinting and regenerative medicine solutions, at both technical and equipment development levels. The results of BiogenInk are expected to contribute to the development of innovative materials for AM in the field of bone tissue engineering, which can accelerate bone formation thus targeting specific diseases or injuries. The technology will start with Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3/4 for the production of marine collagen, doped calcium phosphate (CaP) nanopowders and collagen/CaP composites, and TRL 2 for the 3D printing inks and resulting tissue engineering scaffolds, and it is expected to reach TRL 6 after the completion of the project. The production of the building blocks (collagen and CaP) is being validated at laboratory level, with scale-up of the process being planned to start on the first quarter of the project, to reach a pilot production line during project lifetime. Based on the significant expertise of the consortium members on 3D printing and tissue engineering, the development of 3D printed collagen/CaP composite scaffolds for bone tissue engineering will quickly be achieved at laboratory level, aiming to establish the conditions and methodology to produce patient-specific biomaterials, in sterile conditions, at the end of the project, capable of replying to future clinical demand. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the main products/processes will be considered for patenting, namely the collagen crosslinker (process already on-going), collagen/CaP inks and production of customized 3D printed composite scaffolds. Furthermore, the market potential and commercialization of these products will be explored mostly by a spin-off company to be established by the project coordinator on marine origin (bio)materials and by REGEMAT 3D. The BiogenInk aims thus to contribute for improving the competitiveness of the European Health industry and, therefore, promote social and economic cohesion.