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Startup Central: Five Questions for BioBots

The University City Science Center

Movie aficionados may remember when Woody Allen kidnapped the disembodied nose of an evil leader in 1973’s Sleeper

Forty-two years later, BioBots, a startup that moved to the University City Science Center in June, is developing a desktop 3D printer that builds living tissue out of human cells. Yes, noses, and eventually organs for transplant. 

We asked Madeline Winter, BioBots' vice president of operations, five key questions about this ambitious company.

What is your big idea?

At BioBots, we create 3D bioprinters and bioinks. Imagine an ordinary 3D printer, but instead of printing plastic, our 3D bioprinters create living tissue. No, this is not science fiction -- currently our devices are used for research and pre-clinical screening such as drug testing. You can use our devices to build 3D living tissue models using human cells that are better able to recapitulate the function of the body. These models can be used to develop compounds for clinical settings and catch false positives before they get to clinical trials. Our long-term goal is to print custom replacement organs from a patient's own cells and eliminate the organ donor waiting list.

What is your origin tale?

Our co-founder and CTO Ricardo Solorzano created the prototype in his dorm room after being frustrated by the high cost of equipment for the University of Pennsylvania lab where he worked. Ricardo entered the prototype in an investor competition with Danny Cabrera, then a Penn senior. They ended up winning first place, pumping the prize money back into further development of the device and deciding to spend the summer seeing what they could build before starting grad school. Danny took on the role of CEO and they were accepted to the DreamIt Health Accelerator

What is your timeline?

We launched our beta program in January and quickly sold our first 50 printers to some of the best researchers around the world. When we started designing the next generation device, we reached out to our amazing community of customers for feedback on how to refine the design. We took all of their comments and used that data to design the BioBot 1, which is more precise and is able to print multiple materials at the same time. We start shipping the first BioBot 1 bioprinters this month to our growing list of customers. We aim to have a BioBots 3D bioprinter on every lab bench in the world. 

Why does the marketplace need your company?

While biofabrication has been around for a while, the other 3D bioprinters on the market are expensive (costing up to half a million dollars), large and difficult to operate. It was for these reasons that only a small number of institutions had the resources and abilities to use them. We set out to democratize that technology by developing the most sophisticated desktop 3D bioprinter on the market. By reducing the price of entry, we are able to get our devices into the hands of more researchers who are accomplishing amazing strides in their research using our devices and biomaterials. 
What is your elevator speech?

Our goal at BioBots has always been to create standards and modular systems that can engineer biology to cure disease, eliminate the organ waiting list, reverse climate change and push humans to live on other planets. Our devices will help to advance research, develop drugs and push the human race forward.
Source: Madeline Winter, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider

WRITER IN RESIDENCE is a partnership between the University City Science Center and Flying Kite Media that embeds a reporter on-site at 3711 Market Street. The resulting coverage will provide an inside look at the most intriguing companies, discoveries and technological innovations coming out of this essential Philadelphia institution.
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