In Bordeaux, Poietis prints living cells. Backed up by patents, the company has just raised 2.5 million euros to develop its laser-assisted technology of high definition printing of human tissues.
Printing living cells is a research sector and a market with vertiginous growth rates: 450 million dollars in 2013 and almost double the figure forecasted for 2018. Adopting the principle of 3D printing, the tissues are designed on CAD (computer-aided design) tools to then be printed with bioinks.
Poietis is a start-up from the Gironde region created in September 2014 by Fabien Guillemot, researcher at Inserm (National Institute for health and medical research) and international pioneer of bioprinting, and Bruno Brisson, a biochemist with 20 years of experience in biotechnologies. Set up at the Bioparc Bordeaux Métropole, Poietis offers a world exclusive new approach to bioprinting.
“The objective is to reproduce the complexity of the living”
Until now, the technique used in bioprinting was printing by extrusion, i.e. a system of syringe pumps that adopts the principles of FDM printing, modeling by laying down materials in layers as seen in standard 3D printing. Its main shortcoming is a relatively low definition (400 to 500 microns).
The technology developed by Poietis applies laser assistance that allows you to model the biological tissue drop by drop with a precision of 10 to 20 microns. The laser is focused on a cartridge made from bioink, itself composed of living cells. During the interaction of the laser with the cartridge, micro-drops are generated. They are composed of cells in small numbers, able to reach a unique cell, that being the maximum resolution possible.
Presentation of laser-assisted bioprinting by Poietis:
Some 10,000 drops placed next to each other reproduce today the equivalent of dermis and epidermis to be used for clinical trials. The cells are printed in a few minutes and can be preserved for up to three weeks. According to Fabien Guillemot, “the higher the resolution, the closer we get to the complexity of the living”, with a maximum rate of printed cell viability. This quality is also propitious to a better predictability of the evolution of the tissue, in other words the famous 4D printing.
Cosmetics and pharmaceutical industry
Laser bioprinting, developed by Fabien Guillemot via a thesis under European industrial contract at Inserm and the university of Bordeaux, was subjected to patent registrations by the Institute. Poietis got the exclusive exploitation, which makes the start-up a major actor of the bioprinting market. Potentially a juicy market, reflected by the contract signed in May 2015 by its American competitor Organovo (that still uses the extrusion method) with L’Oreal in the United-States.
The opportunities of bioprinting are of particular interest to the cosmetics market, especially since tests on animals were forbidden by the European union in March 2013. Poietis incidentally signed signed in June 2015 a research and development agreement on cosmetics with the German chemical group BASF. The pharmaceutical industry is also a target for Poietis, regarding the “predictability of pre-clinical phases”, says Fabien Guillemot pointing out the tragic events that occurred in Rennes.
An “out-performing” crowdfunding
In order to move on to an industrial phase, Poietis raised funds at the end of 2015, betting on crowdfunding. “We made this choice because we felt that bioprinting was intended to have a strong society impact”, explains Fabien Guillemot. “We had forecasted €600,000 of crowdfunding and the same sum of money from traditional investors. And we reached almost €900,000 on the equity crowdfunding platform Wiseed, The rest was funded by business angels for a global sum of 2.5 million euros.” As opposed to standard participative funding, contributors of crowd equity platforms become shareholders. “We aren’t going to send them skin samples as a token of gratitude”, jokes Fabien Guillemot (left in the following Tweet).
“Now that the R&D phase is behind us, the funding will allow us to address the issues of output and sturdiness”, adds Fabien Guillemot. Poietis also intends to develop simplified modelling tools since “the profile of users, for instance biologists, does not necessarily include a broad knowledge of CAD tools”.