UGent and VUB spin-off creates bio-ink to produce organs using 3D printers and own cells
With the signing of an exclusive licensing deal, BIO INX becomes the latest spin-off from Ghent University (UGent) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). It’s working on developing organic inks to produce human “spare parts” with the help of 3D printers. “The mission of BIO INX is to lay our piece of the 3D bioprinting puzzle by developing bio-inks, materials that can print organs using their own cells,” says Jasper Van Hoorick, CEO of BIO INX
At a time when people are living longer, the human body can’t always keep up. BIO INX focuses on the continuing progress of medicine, in particular the Healthcare 4.0 era. This combines advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analysis and 3D printing to improve healthcare and make it more efficient. The mission of BIO INX is to make a significant contribution to the 3D bioprinting puzzle through high-performance standardised materials. “We aim to achieve this through developing bio-inks, eventually enabling the printing of organs using the body’s own cells,” says Van Hoorick. “We also want to offer high-quality alternatives to animal testing in drug development.”
He adds: “At BIO INX, we focus on developing materials for various print technologies with a specific focus on light-based high-resolution technologies. In that respect, the ideal breeding ground for this spin-off came from the expertise acquired at UGent and VUB. UGent contributed through its expertise in the field of material development, and VUB through its photonics infrastructure and knowledge, such as laser-based printing.” Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials group is a UGent research group with a long tradition of developing polymer-based biomaterials, materials that are used to repair or replace damaged human tissue. B-PHOT Brussels Photonics is a VUB research group that works on photonics, or research into light.
“We’re working to maximise clinical translation of our biomaterials thanks to our interdisciplinary collaborations with cell biologists and surgeons. The commercialisation of bio-inks is the perfect intermediate step towards realising this in the future,” says Sandra Van Vlierberghe, professor at UGent and co-founder of BIO-INX. “The university is the ideal place where cross-fertilisation between disciplines leads to disruptive ideas and innovation, which is essential to stimulate economic growth,” says Hugo Thienpont, VUB vice-rector for Innovation and Valorisation. “With spin-offs, technology is essential, but even more important is the team. The success of BIO INX also comes from the strong team of young, driven and entrepreneurial people,” says An Van Den Bulcke, Industrieel Onderzoeksfonds (IOF) business developer at UGent.
The revolutionary spin-off BIO INX enhances the position of Flanders as a world leader in 3D bio-printing and technology. BIO INX has recently finalised a licensing agreement to become a spin-off of UGent and VUB.
The foundations for BIO INX were laid during a joint PhD research project between B-PHOT Brussels Photonics at VUB and the Polymer Chemistry and Biomaterials group (PBM) at UGent. During his PhD at UGent on the regeneration of corneas, Jasper Van Hoorick developed a new vision for the development of biocompatible materials that can be created using laser-based high-resolution 3D printing. He received the Solvay Award in 2020 for this work. Thanks to a VLAIO innovation mandate he became a postdoctoral researcher at UGent, where he followed a pathway in the European project ACTPHAST4Researchers. This project, which continued as PhotonHub Europe, gives companies and researchers access to advanced technology platforms in photonics. B-PHOT and PBM supported him in the development of materials for high-resolution 3D bioprinting. The ACTPHAST track led to the development of HYDROBIO INX X400, an ink that allows printing of living cells at micrometre resolution and is being marketed internationally by Nanoscribe, the market leader in high-resolution 3D printing equipment.
The IOF of the Associatie Universiteit Gent and the UGent IOF Business Development Center ChemTech Life Sciences played an important role in the start-up phase of the BIO INX story. The IOF and VLAIO contributed to proof-of-concept funding and ChemTech supported it through business development activities.
About UGent Polymer Chemistry & Biomaterials
The UGent Polymer Chemistry & Biomaterials group (PBM), led by professors Peter Dubruel and Sandra Van Vlierberghe, develops biomaterials for various biomedical applications. Its research focuses on polymer synthesis, functionalisation, processing and characterisation of synthetic and natural polymers. In addition, the group has a wide range of laser-based and extrusion-based 3D printing equipment. Its focus is not only on innovative biomaterials but also on their use through interdisciplinary application developments, mainly in the field of medicine.
About VUB B-PHOT
B-PHOT Brussels Photonics is the VUB research group that works on photonics, or research into light. The team helps large companies and SMEs innovate with lighting technology, in their production process and their final products, through, among other things, the PhotonHub Europe project. There is also a joint master’s in photonics from VUB and UGent, which trains engineers to become experts in lighting technology and optics. The two universities aim to ensure the future of one of the EU’s key enabling technologies.
About UGent TechTransfer and IOF Business Development Center ChemTech
UGent has a unique valorisation structure. The central interface UGent TechTransfer and more than 25 decentralised Business Development Centers support researchers to bring their ground-breaking products to market. UGent TechTransfer manages the university’s intellectual property, converts it into spin-off companies and licences, and supports the UGent research community in creating partnerships with industry. ChemTech Life Sciences, led by An Van Den Bulcke, is a decentralised Business Development Center that is closely involved from the time of identifying patentable inventions and helps with maturing the technology, looking for market opportunities and developing the business plan with the team. ChemTech Life Science manages a portfolio of 50 patent families, most of which are based on innovative polymers.
About VUB TechTransfer and vice-rectorate for Innovation & Valorisation
The mission of the vice-rectorate for Innovation & Valorisation is to create a positive impact on society by valorising scientific research. The operation is supported by the multidisciplinary VUB TechTransfer team. They aim to connect the university’s research expertise with society and industry and they do so with partners the VUB Foundation and Crosstalks.
About BIO INX
BIO INX is a spin-off from UGent and VUB that develops and commercialises materials for 3D bio-printing. It is one of the market leaders in materials for high-resolution laser-based 3D bio-printing technologies. Its mission is to develop innovative materials and solutions that enable researchers and clinicians to 3D-print advanced biomedical “living” structures. BIO INX offers a portfolio of bio inks for various bioprinting technologies such as extrusion-based printing, digital light projection and two-photon polymerisation. By offering a unique portfolio with various material properties suitable for many cell types, the applications for 3D bioprinting become almost endless. These range from regenerative medicine to drug development and reducing animal testing.