A Chicago bioprinting startup that seeks to 3-D print human hearts for transplantation has added to its scientific advisory board of heavy hitters. But its CEO won’t say how close the company is to producing its first viable heart.
Biolife4D just announced it has added regenerative biomaterials expert Adam Feinberg, PhD to lead its scientific advisory team. Feinberg is associate professor of materials science & engineering and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and principal investigator of the regenerative biomaterials and therapeutics group. Feinberg uses materials-based engineering strategies to control the self-organization and assembly of various cell types into tissues.
That’s a foundational requirement to successfully bioprint human organs, according to a company statement. Biolife4D, which will rely on crowdfunding, would develop a replacement heart for a patient by converting the patient’s blood cells to specialized heart cells that will be used to make bio-ink. After it is printed, the heart would go into a bioreactor to mature and grow stronger for patient transplant.
The company’s strategy is to assemble the leading researchers in bioprinting into a team to expedite the process, according to founder and CEO Steven Morris. In addition to Feinberg, Biolife4D’s scientific advisors include researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Virginia, Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University.
“We put together people who have a huge amount of experience in the whole process, but also are the experts in the individual steps,” Morris told MDDI. “By doing that, we feel that we’re going to bring the timeframe down significantly.”
Morris was president of Inland Midwest Corp. for 15 years, transforming the precision machining office products parts company into a boutique orthopedic surgical instrument supplier to OEM leaders, including Medtronic Spinal and Biologics, Wright Medical, Biomet and Zimmer. Midwest was sold to MedTorque Inc. in 2011. Morris stayed on for two years, and when his non-compete clause expired, sought to start a 3-D printing surgical instrument company. But he kept running across information about bioprinting and changed course.
Biolife4D plans to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign on Feb. 1, aiming to raise at least $5 million. The company has hired a mechanical engineer, software engineer and an applications engineer who teaches 3-D printing. It is seeking a chief science officer.
Its main goal is to help patients who need new hearts to live longer than the current 10 year average for transplant recipients. Morris said he wants to make 3-D printed hearts available to all patients, including those considered too old or sick to qualify for a human heart transplant. Developing those hearts from patients’ own cells will eliminate the need for immunosuppressant drugs to combat rejection and the danger of contracting other illnesses because of taking those drugs, Morris said.
So why isn’t the company called Biolife3D?
“The fourth dimension is time,” Morris said. “That’s what we‘re trying to do, is give people more time.”