Bioprinting Patents - the future of healthcare, or food production?

Bioprinting, or the three-dimensional layering of living biological tissue, organs and cells is a pioneering technology which is rapidly finding applications in transplant surgery, wound treatment, reconstructive surgery, and perhaps controversially, food production, as companies consider how to increase global production of meat and animal products.

 Bioprinting Patents

While this area of biological manufacturing is still in the experimental stage and mostly being used in scientific study rather than applied medicine, the potential for bioprinting to improve patient outcomes is clear. As a result, we have seen a rapid increase in the volume of patents being filed in this space, with a clear focus on WIPO (PCT) patent applications, which allow the patentee to subsequently file in a large number of jurisdictions. This shows the global potential of bioprinting as a new technology area.

Where are bioprinting patents being filed?

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A patent search reveals that the top bioprinting patent holder is Organovo Holdings Inc, an early stage medical laboratory and medical research company in California which designs and develops 3D medical tissue for medical use. With 64 patents, they hold more than twice as many as the University of Missouri, who are joined by Palo Alto Research Center, CNRS in france, and Wake Forest University in the top 5 patent holders in this space. It's perhaps not surprising that so many stock pickers are turning their attention to Organovo Holdings and tipping it as an interesting investment opportunity

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Would you eat bioprinted meat?

Researchers at the University of Missouri last month filed an interesting patent, US20160251625A1 which describes using bioprinting to create meat for human consumption or experimentation. The abstract describes "methods for enhancing cultured meat production, such as livestock-autonomous meat production. In certain aspects, the meat is any metazoan tissue or cell-derived comestible product intended for use as a comestible food or nutritional component".

While you may not want to eat any of the early prototypes, it's easy to understand why this might become a very valuable patent in the future. 

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Nanofiber coating prevents infections of prosthetic joints

Scientists at the Johns Hopkins University have successfully completed a proof of concept study on mice, showing that a new coating made from antibiotic-releasing nanofibers could help prevent some serious bacterial infections which can occur following joint replacement surgery.

"We can potentially coat any metallic implant that we put into patients, from prosthetic joints, rods, screws and plates to pacemakers, implantable defibrillators and dental hardware," sad the study’s co-author, Dr Lloyd S. Miller. The coating has proven effective at inhibiting biofilm-related infections, which affect an estimated 1 of 2 percent patients of hip and knee replacement surgeries, requiring antibiotics, and in extreme cases, even the need to remove and replace the prosthesis which is both painful and costly.

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