BICO and Nanochon Announce Partnership to Develop Regenerative Joint Implants

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Nanochon is a Rosenman Innovator. From 3D Printing Industry.

3D bioprinting firm BICO has announced an initial contract manufacturing deal with regenerative joint replacement start-up Nanochon.

The deal will see Nanochon purchase products and services from BICO’s SCIENION company to develop its 3D printed regenerative joint implants, which the start-up claims will deliver faster recoveries for patients while reducing costs to health providers.

“Nanochon’s approach to regenerative joint replacement has the potential to improve the lives of tens of millions of people each year,” said Erik Gatenholm, CEO and Co-founder of BICO. “We’re thrilled to leverage BICO’s bio automation manufacturing and technology expertise to help bring this product to millions of patients around the world.”

BICO’s growing hold on the 3D bioprinting market

Through its CELLINK and other subsidiaries, BICO offers a comprehensive portfolio of extrusion-based bioprinters, light-based bioprinters, and tissue-specific bioinks that can be found in more than 2,000 laboratories worldwide, including Stanford UniversityHarvard University, and Johnson & Johnson

On top of its rebranding in August, BICO has acquired multiple 3D printing businesses in the past year or so in an attempt to grow its hold on the bioprinting market. In August 2020, the firm acquired precision dispensing 3D printing firm SCIENION in a deal worth €80 million, which enabled BICO to incorporate SCIENION’s pico and nanoliter cell dispensing capabilities into its product range.

More recently, BICO also acquired in-vitro technology specialist MatTek Corporation for $68 million to advance its research into animal cruelty-free cellular testing models, and Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP) 3D printer manufacturer Nanoscribe to enable the fabrication of more lifelike soft tissues.

In October, BICO was issued two new patents for the 3D bioprinting of temperature-sensitive bioinks which it says will accelerate R&D for applications such as 3D cell-based drug development. 

Regenerative joint replacements

According to BICO, more than 7 million joint replacement surgeries take place each year across the US. The US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that aging Americans will drive annual healthcare spending to $6 trillion by 2027, with much of that coming from aging-related disorders like osteoporosis for which joint replacement surgery is required. 

Typically, current joint replacements tend to last only 15-20 years due to a lack of organic cartilage growth, compounded by the highly invasive nature of the surgery. 

Nanochon is seeking to improve these outcomes with its novel regenerative technology based on 3D printing. The method replaces current invasive replacement surgery with a minimally invasive procedure whereby 3D printed structures made of a polymer nano-material are implanted into damaged cartilage to promote healthy cartilage growth. 

The company says its technology will deliver faster and more successful recovery rates for patients, while also reducing the cost of treatment for healthcare providers and patients alike. 

As part of the deal between BICO and Nanochon, SCIENION will serve as a contract manufacturer for cartilage resurfacing implants for Nanochon, leveraging several key technologies from BICO’s portfolio. Over the coming decade, SCIENION will become a key manufacturing partner for Nanochon.

“It is very exciting to have the strategic support of the BICO group,” said Ben Holmes, CEO and Co-founder of Nanochon. “We have had a clear vision of helping sufferers of joint disease with our technology, and this partnership will greatly accelerate Nanochon to the clinic and the market.”

In addition to the manufacturing partnership struck between the two companies, BICO has also invested $400,000 into Nanochon’s seed funding round to advance its regenerative medicine technology. As a result, the technology will become a key part of BICO’s Next Generation Core Industrial Ecosystems, under Tissue Engineering. 

Nanochon will use the funding to help scale its manufacturing processes and accelerate the progress of its clinical trials. 

The procedure for implanting Nanochon’s 3D printed medical device. Photo via Nanochon.

Advancing 3D printed implants

Additive manufacturing technologies, materials, and applications within regenerative medicine are receiving increasing attention and development, with the past year alone seeing multiple advances within the area of 3D printed implants and tissue engineering.

For instance, the likes of Osteopore and Maastricht University Medical Centre have developed bioresorbable bone implants with the potential to prevent leg amputations, and the University of Basel has developed a novel 3D printed implant for treating eye socket fractures that reduces the risk of patient rejection.

Elsewhere, a spine implant 3D printed using Farsoon’s SLM technology has been granted landmark clearance from China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), and Danish medical device manufacturer Particle3D has been granted a Chinese patent for a novel bioink that enables the 3D printing of fully-resorbable porous bone implants

Just last week, Health Canada approved its first Canadian-made 3D printed medical implant, a customizable mandibular (lower jaw) plate for use in facial reconstruction surgery.